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&  nranm. 






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A.    M.    PBILPOT     Ltd., 

69,  Great  Rus&ell  Street,  W.C. 


Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

Printed  tn  Great  Britain 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte. 

From  the  medallion  by  his  friend  J.  B.  Leyland,  the  sculptor. 

(Made  probably  about  i^>4i.) 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 


^Alice    Law,    F.R.S.L.,     F.R.Hist.S. 

(Author  of  "  Songs  of  the  Uplands"  etc.) 

London  : 

A.   M.   Philpot,  Ltd. 

69     Great     Russell     Street,     W.C. 

To  my  friend 

A.E.  M. 

in  remembrance  of 

Whitsuntide,    1923 

^-  ^^ 

fK     ^^f?i^^<^     -'x 

^y^'^ii      A'-"       1356 




Chapter  Page 

Introduction      -             -              -  9 

I.    The  Biographers       -      -              -  13 

II.    Boyhood       -      -                    -      -  18 

III.  "  I  don't  know  what  to  do  "      -  34 

IV.  "  Much  Tribulation  "      -      -       -  66 

V.     "Wuthering  Heights" — by  Emily?  103 

VI.    "Wuthering  Heights  " — by  Bran- 
well  ? 141 


Selections  from  the  Poems  of 

Branwell  Bronte        -      -  185 


Patrick    Branwell     Bronte.  From     a 

medallion  by   his  friend,  the  sculptor 
J.  B.  Leyland       -         -         -         Frontispiece 

To  face  page 
The  Moorland  Track,  leading  to  what  is  now 

caUed  "  The  Bronte  Waterfall  "  -        32 

Emily    Bronte.     From     the    painting    by 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte       -        -        -        40 

Haworth  Parsonage  as  it  was  in  the  time  of 

the  Brontes 84 

"  Patrick's    Chair."      Branwell's    favourite 

seat  in  the  Black  Bull  Inn,  Haworth    -       134 

The    Withens.         The    supposed    site    of 

"  Wuthering  Heights "         -        -        -       148 


In   common   with   many   other   dwellers   on   the 

borders  of  the  West  Riding  of  Yorkshire,  within  a 

radius  of  some  twenty  odd  miles  from  Haworth, 

I  was  brought  up  in  the  Bronte  atmosphere.     I 

have  paid  many  visits  to  the  little  grey  parsonage 

on  the  sky-line  of  the  gaunt  uplands,  and  every 

pilgrimage  has  intensified  my  profound  pity  for 

the  unhappy  life  and  blighted  ambitions  of  Patrick 

Branwell   Bronte,   a  feeling   even   predominating 

over  my  admiration  for  the  genius  of  his  sisters. 

This    feeling   might   have  remained   pity,   and 

nothing  more,  had  it  not  been  at  length  roused  to 

something  warmer  by  finding  such  a  torrent  of 

unmitigated  abuse  of  Charlotte's  despised  brother 

in  all  the  Bronte  literature,  both  present  and  past, 

as  made  one  suspect  there  must  be  some  source  of 

irritation  against  him  not  immediately  manifest 

to  the  general  public.     Yet  the  more  I  pondered 


10  Introduction 

over  his  case,  the  more  inexphcable  it  became  to 
suppose  that  the  youth  whom  Mrs.  Gaskell — a 
writer  so  near  to  the  heart  of  things  through  her 
friendship  with  Charlotte — had  pronounced  to  ba 
"  perhaps,  to  begin  with,  the  greatest  genius  in 
this  rare  family",  could  have  passed  through  nearly 
thirty-one  years  of  life  without  leaving  some 
work  of  value  behind  him.  "  To  begin  with  " — 
the  phrase  is  curious.  One  realises  the  suggestion 
behind  it — that  Branwell,  both  as  boy  and  youth, 
gave  promise  of  achievements  which  he  never 
performed,  and  that  having  wasted  and  neglected 
his  powers,  he  finally  lost  them.  This  opened  up 
the  question  in  my  mind — Can  genius  perish 
utterly  in  a  man  ?  Even  though  the  vessel  be 
wrecked,  will  not  some  spars,  some  precious  cargo 
float  to  land  to  shew  what  a  rich-laden  and  goodly 
ship  has  foundered  ?  What  became  of  Branwell's 
undoubted    genius  ? 

In  this  perplexed  state  of  mind  I  came  across 
Mr.  Francis  A.  Leyland's  book  on  "  The  Bronte 
Family",  written  with  especial  reference  to 
Branwell,  giving  various  fragments  of  Branwell's 

Introduction  1 1 

work,  and,  most  important  of  all,  quoting  his 
declaration  that  he  had  written  a  great  portion  of 
"  Wuthering  Heights." 

The  "  murder "  was  out,  and  my  suspicions 
concerning  the  marked  animus  shewn  by  the 
biographers  of  the  Brontes — those  of  Emily  in 
particular — towards  Branwell,  were  at  once  con- 
firmed. I  began  to  understand  something  of  the 
rage  and  indignation  such  an  assertion  would 
rouse  in  the  minds  of  the  staunch  supporters  of 
Emily's  authorship,  an  authorship  so  confidently 
vouched  for  by  Charlotte.  I  began  to  realize  how 
necessary  it  was  for  the  enthusiastic  partizans  of 
Emily  and  Charlotte  to  counter  what  Mr. 
Clement  Shorter  terms  this  "  preposterous  state- 
ment "  of  Branwell's,  by  endeavouring  to  shew 
him  up  as  a  thoroughly  unreliable  wastrel  and  liar. 
Greatly  impressed  with  Mr.  Leyland's  very  fair 
and  balanced  account  of  Branwell,  I  determined  to 
study  the  matter  more  closely,  with  the  result  that 
I  am  convinced  there  is  much  evidence  to  sub- 
stantiate his  claim.  To  dismiss  it  as  the  bio- 
graphers of  Emily  have  done,  with  mere  derision 

1 2  Introduction 

and  rancorous  contempt,  is  futile ;  abuse  is  not 
argument.  It  remains,  therefore,  in  the  interests 
of  literary  justice  that  Branwell's  claim  should  be 
carefully  examined,  as  I  have  endeavoured,  how 
ever  inadequately,  to  examine  it  in  the  following 
pages,  and  I  venture  to  submit  the  accumulated 
evidence  which  has  been  brought  to  light  since  Mr. 
Leyland's  day  to  the  unbiassed  judgment  of  my 

Where  no  absolutely  direct  proof  can  be  adduced, 
I  have  employed  conjecture  ;  but  only  such  con- 
jecture as,  taken  together  with  all  the  obvious 
points  of  the  case,  amounts  well  nigh  to  certainty. 

Alice  Law 


The  history  of  the  Bronte  family,  with  one  ex- 
ception, that  of  their  brother,  the  subject  of  this 
memoir,  har-.  been  so  often  told  as  to  call  for  little 
further  comment.  The  story  of  Patrick  Branwell 
Bronte,  on  the  other  hand,  has  but  cropped  up 
incidentally  in  the  biographies  of  his  famous 
sisters,  hurriedly,  apologetically  thrust  in,  to 
illustrate  certain  aspects  of,  or  crises  in,  their  Uves. 
The  reference  has  been  usually  brief  and  damna- 
tory, the  pitiable  narrative  being  introduced 
chiefly  as  a  foil  to  display  how  their  genius  tri- 
umphed despite  the  stumbling  block  of  a  brother's 
disgrace,  strewn  in  the  path  of  their  achievement. 
Mrs.  Gaskell  passes  him  by  with  a  shudder, 
referring  to  him  as  one  who  proved  the  bane  of  his 
sisters'  Uves  ;  Sir  Wemyss  Reid,  in  his  monograph 
upon  Charlotte,  refers  to  him  as  "  this  lost  and 
degraded  man  "  ;  Miss  Mary  Robinson  (Madame 
Duclaux),   in   her   study   of   Emily,   cannot   find 


14  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

words  sufficiently  scathing  to  convey  her  contempt 
for  Branwell ;  and  Mr.  Swinburne,  in  his  review 
of  Miss  Robinson's  work,  adds  his  invective  to  hers. 
Within  the  last  quarter  of  a  century  other  writers 
have  gone  out  of  their  way  to  heap  contempt  and 
obloquy  upon  this  unfortunate  young  man.  Mr. 
Clement  Shorter  dismisses  his  pretensions  to 
genius  in  the  harshest  fashion,  and  Miss  Sinclair, 
relying  perhaps  too  much  on  Mr.  Shorter 's  judg- 
ment, and  for  a  reason  which  I  hope  presently  to 
make  plain,  acquiesces  in,  and  even  emphasizes 
the  general  condemnation.  While  at  first  gener- 
ously deploring  the  perpetual  digging  up  of  poor 
Branwell,  Miss  Sinclair  finally,  in  her  study  of 
"  The  Three  Brontes",  begins  to  dig  as  fast  as 
any  one,  and  to  drive  as  many  nails  as  possible 
into  the  coffin  of  his  reputation. 

Indeed,  this  necessity  of  repudiating  Branwell 
has  become  a  kind  of  obsession  among  Bronte 
writers,  so  much  so  that  they  seem  to  fear  that 
unless  Branwell  is  defamed,  the  sisters  cannot 
come  into  their  full  inheritance  of  glory. 

From  what  we  know  of  Charlotte,  Emily  and 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  1 5 

Anne  Bronte,  we  can  guess  that  they  would  owe 
their  biographers  scant  thanks  for  such  a  miserable 
tribute  to  their  reputation.  Assuredly  the  lustre 
of  their  renown  is  brilliant  enough,  and  needs  no 
such  deplorable  foil.  Yet,  so  it  has  been  :  from 
the  time  of  Mrs.  Gaskell  until  now,  Branwell 
Bronle's  failure  has  been  everywhere  emphasized 
to  magnify  his  sisters'  success  or  to  enhance  the 
pathos  of  their  sufferings,  until  it  is  scarcely  an 
exaggeration  to  say  that  his  poor  Hfe  and  reputa- 
tion have  been  used,  much  as  were  the  bodies  of 
some  of  the  Early  Christians — tarred  with  obloquy 
and  burned  as  a  torch  to  throw  a  more  lurid  light 
on  the  struggles  of  his  kinsfolk  batthng  in  life's 
arena.  His  own  martyrdom,  at  the  hands  of  Fate 
and  Family,  has  passed  unheeded. 

There  is  perhaps  in  the  whole  history  of  English 
literature — usually  so  generous  to  the  claims  of 
genius  however  handicapped  by  temperament  or 
hampered  by  circumstance — no  parallel  instance 
of  any  writer  of  equad  ability  being  subjected  to  the 
indiscriminate  abuse  heaped  on  Branwell  Bronte. 
It  is  indeed  time  that  all  this  execration  should 

16  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

cease.  Shameful  if  continued  against  the  most 
ordinary  human  being,  it  becomes  an  outrage 
against  the  memory  of  one  who  had  so  little  good 
fortune  in  his  short  lifetime ;  who  died  in  his 
thirty-first  year,  a  victim  to  the  hereditary  disease 
which  devastated  in  turn  the  members  of  his  family; 
and  who  left  behind  him  fragments  of  art  and 
literature  which  indicate  the  highest  promise  of 
what  he  might  have  attained  in  a  more  favourable 

Mr.  Bronte  was  the  first  strongly  to  resent  Mrs. 
Gaskell's  uncalled-for  attacks  upon  both  himself 
and  his  son,  and  since  then  there  have  happily 
been  a  few  gallant  defenders  of  Branwell  Bronte, 
to  whose  impressions  the  more  weight  may  be 
attached  since  they  either  knew  him  personally 
or  were  in  close  touch  with  those  who  did.  The 
report  they  render,  taken  as  a  whole,  is  markedly 
in  his  favour.  The  writers  denouncing  him,  on 
the  other  hand,  are  those  who  have  merely  judged 
him  from  rumour  and  hearsay.  Their  almost 
hysterical  outbursts  against  him  leave  the  reader 
with  the  suspicion  that  they  had  some  particular 

Patrick  Branwell  Bro7ite  17 

grudge  against  him,  and,  as  I  hope  presently  to 
shew,  they  undoubtedly  have.  The  peevishness 
of  these  writers,  makes  them  all,  with  the  notable 
exception  of  Mr.  Clement  Shorter,  strive  to  give 
their  readers  an  impression  that  Branwell's  whole 
life  was  a  trial  and  disgrace  to  his  family  ;  whereas 
we  know  that  only  during  the  last  three  years, 
when  he  was  suffering  abnormal  strain  of  physical 
and  mental  anguish,  did  he  become  a  source  of 
acute  anxiety  and  distress  to  his  father  and 
sisters.  For  at  least  twenty-seven  years  he  was 
the  object  of  pride  and  dear  affection.  How  he 
came  to  be  anything  less  shall  be  examined  later. 
Before  entering  upon  a  discussion  of  Branwell 
Bronte's  claim  to  our  remembrance,  a  brief  sum- 
mary of  his  life  history  is  necessary.  Much 
material,  previously  unknown,  has  been  brought 
together  by  the  unremitting  industry  of  his  chief 
biographer,  Mr.  Francis  A.  Leyland,  upon  which* 
I  shall  not  hesitate  to  draw  largely,  and  base  my 
own  conclusions. 

•  "The     Bronte     Family"      (Hurst      and      Blackett) 
1886.    Henceforth  referred  to  as  Leyland. 




To  begin  then,  as  the  children  say,  at  the  very 
beginning,  it  is  known  to  all  Bronte  students  that 
Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  was  born  at  the  Parsonage 
House,  Haworth,  near  Keighley,  in  the  West 
Riding  of  Yorkshire,  in  1818,  the  fourth  child  of 
The  Reverend  Patrick  Bronte  and  Maria,  his 
wife.  He  was  called  Patrick  after  his  father,  and 
Branwell  after  his  mother's  family.  His  mother 
died  when  he  was  three  years  old,  and  he  can 
scarcely  have  had  any  definite  recollection  of  her. 
From  his  fourth  year  onward,  till  he  was  old 
enough  to  attend  the  local  Grammar  School,  we 
must  picture  the  little  Branwell  as  a  fair,  bright- 
eyed  boy,  with  chestnut  hair,  sharing  the  home  life 
of  his  five  motherless  sisters,  under  the  kindly,  but 
strict  tutelage  of  their  aunt.  Miss  Branwell,  who 
at  the  request  of  her  bereaved  brother-in-law,  had 


Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  19 

come  up  from  Cornwall  to  manage  his  young 
family,  and  to  preside  over  the  affairs  of  his  house- 

It  has  been  wisely  said  that  every  student  of  the 
Brontes  would  do  well  to  visit  the  high  moorland 
village  where  they  were  bred,  a  tiny  rustic  hamlet 
perched  on  the  top  of  wild,  sweeping,  ruthless 
uplands,  amid  the  kind  of  scenery  that  either 
attracts  or  utterly  repels  the  onlooker.  We  know 
that  in  the  case  of  one,  if  not  two,  of  the  sisters, 
their  native  moors  were  so  much  a  part  of  their 
own  nature,  that  they  could  not  be  happy  else- 
where. This  was  not  necessarily  their  brother's 
case,  though  the  wild  spirit  of  the  moors  un- 
doubtedly imbued  his  mind  and  heart  from  life- 
long association.  As  a  tiny  boy,  hand  in  hand 
with  his  elder  sisters,  Maria,  Elizabeth  and 
Charlotte,  he  walked  day  after  day  along  the  roads 
leading  either  to  Colne  or  Keighley,  and  when  he 
was  old  enough  to  ramble  alone  or  with  some 
friend  of  his  own  age,  we  may  be  sure  he  frequented 
every  nook  and  cranny  that  held  Nature's  secrets, 
and  became  acquainted  with  every  bird  and  plant 

20  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

to  be  found  in  the  remotest  recesses  of  that  deso- 
late region. 

It  might  be  supposed  that  the  only  boy  among 
a  group  of  girls  would  be  the  especial  object  of  his 
father's  care  and  solicitude.  It  is  clear  that  Mr. 
Bronte  did  his  best  for  his  son  within  the  very 
narrow  limitations  of  his  somewhat  stern  and 
self-centred  nature.  But  his  whole  system  of 
training  proves  beyond  the  possibility  of  doubt, 
that  he  was  no  lover  of  children.  His  ideas  were 
rigid,  the  little  ones  were  not  to  come  into  close 
contact  with  him,  he  was  to  be  "  saved  "  from 
them,  not  to  be  disturbed  by  noise  or  play.  To 
make  quite  sure  that  his  solitude  should  not  be 
encroached  upon,  he  took  his  meals  apart,  and 
further  to  ensure  that  his  offspring  should  prove 
sufficiently  "  tame  "  and  docile,  we  are  told  that 
he  kept  them  on  a  diet  of  porridge  and  potatoes. 
They  were  never  allowed  meat.  Now  in  the  mild 
climate  of  Ireland,  where  Mr.  Bronte  had  been  bred, 
and  where  so  large  a  proportion  of  the  population 
are  potato-fed,  this  diet  is  probably  fairly 
sustaining,    at    least   when    supplemented,    as  it 

Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte  2 1 

usually  is,  with  bacon.  But  for  a  bleak,  bitter 
country  like  the  desolate,  high  moors  of  the  West 
Riding,  such  fare  is  quite  unsuitable.  The  delicate 
children  of  the  Parsonage  needed  the  best  food 
and  clothing  available,  to  protect  them  from  the 
cold  of  that  exposed  region.  It  seems  therefore 
impossible  to  exonerate  this  hard,  self-absorbed 
parent  from  the  grave  accusation  of  having  sub- 
jected his  precious  charges  to  a  regimen  and  system 
of  training  which  their  tender  bodies  were  totally 
unfitted  to  bear,  and  of  having  thus — unwittingly, 
it  may  be  granted — laid  them  open  to  the  ravages 
of  that  constitutional  disease  which  proved  fatal 
to  them  all. 

In  the  case  of  Branwell,  the  lack  of  nitrogenous 
food  was  especially  disastrous,  as  a  boy  needs 
more  bone  and  muscle  building,  and  there  can 
be  little  doubt  that  the  Spartan  diet  upon  which 
he  was  reared  induced  the  fragility  so  eminently 
noticeable  in  his  constitution,  both  as  boy  and  man. 
It  was  probably  this  lack  of  stamina  and  natural 
vigour  which  led  him  in  later  years  to  resort  to 
stimulants  that  might  spur  his  flagging  energies, 

22  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

and  which  rendered  him  unequal  to  the  strain  of 
combating  the  series  of  disappointments  he  eventu- 
ally encountered,  under  which  his  spirit  broke 
completely  and  finally. 

From  all  accounts  he  was  a  gentle,  affectionate 
boy,  but  abnormally  excitable.  He  was  his 
aunt's  especial  favourite,  but  never  taken  into 
close  companionship  by  his  father.  The  grim 
old  man  did  his  duty,  as  he  conceived  it,  by  his 
son  in  grounding  him  well  in  the  rudiments  of 
learning,  and  without  doubt  taught  him  conscien- 
tiously and  well.  But  his  grave  and  reserved 
nature  made  him  incapable  of  winning  the  boy's 
ardent,  impulsive  heart,  and  it  was  probably  a 
relief  to  all  concerned  when  Branwell  was  old 
enough  to  attend  the  local  Grammar  School. 

It  is  well  known  from  Mrs.  Gaskell's  work* 
how  the  children  spent  the  winter  evenings  before 
bedtime.  Seated  together  round  the  kitchen 
fire,   they  invented  tales  and  little  dramas ;    all 

*  "  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte,"  by  Mrs.  Gaskell 
(Dent).  With  Preface  by  Miss  May  Sinclair,  1908. 
Henceforth  referred  to  as  "  Life." 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  23 

the  children  contributed  some  idea  or  other  to 
the  plays  ;  but  there  is  reason  to  suppose  that 
Branwell  was  the  leading  spirit  in  their  plots  and 
composition,  Charlotte  taking  the  more  tedious 
task  of  copj'ing  them  out  and  preserving  them 
in  her  private  library.  The  names  of  three  are 
given  by  Charlotte  as  follows  :  "  Our  plays  were 
estabhshed  :  '  Young  Men',  June,  1826  ;  '  Our 
Fellows',  July,  1827  ;  '  Islanders',  December, 
1827.  These  are  our  three  great  plays  that  are 
not  kept  secret."* 

The  titles  of  these  plays  indicate  more  strongly 
than  anything  the  prominent  part  played  by 
Branwell  in  their  composition,  though  from  Mrs. 
Gaskell's  account,  one  might  suppose  the  whole 
juvenile  library,  of  which  Charlotte  writes,  to  have 
been  her  own  sole  creation.  Branwell  is  also  known 
to  have  contributed  his  share  to  the  "  Young 
Men's  Magazine"  completed  December,  1829,  of 
which  six  numbers  are  included  in  the  "  Catalogue 
of  my  Books  up  to  August,  1830".  It  is  more 
than  probable  that  in  speaking  of  these  as  her 
♦  "  Life,"  pp.  54-55. 

24  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

books  Charlotte  was  claiming  possession  rather 
than  authorship,  for  it  is  known  that  her  brother 
and  sister  Emily  were  equal  contributors  with 

The  existence  of  these  little  compositions 
establishes  the  fact  that  Branwell,  no  less  than 
his  sisters,  was  engaged  in  romantic  literary 
composition  from  the  age  of  nine  onwards.  It  is 
said  that  he  was  an  ardent  student  and  omnivorous 
reader  of  all  the  books  or  magazines  that  came  his 
way.  He  studied  the  classics  both  with  his 
father  and  at  the  Grammar  School,  and  was  a 
fairly  brilliant  scholar.  Some  of  the  magazines 
of  the  day,  Blackwood's  certainly,  he  saw,  and  the 
local  papers  ;  we  also  hear  of  his  close  acquaintance 
with  the  works  of  the  great  writers  of  the  day, 
Scott,  Southey,  Wordsworth,  Byron,  De  Quincey, 
Coleridge,  Cowper,  Burns,  Christopher  North,  and 
many  more,  as  well  as  with  the  classics  of  the 
Augustan  Age  and  the  great  Elizabethans.  It  is 
remarkable,  too,  that,  spirited  boy  as  he  was, 
his  favourite  poets  were  Wordsworth  and  Cowper : 
he  was  particularly  fond  of  quoting  the  latter's 

Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte  26 

poem,  "  The  Castaway".  A  description  given  by 
Charlotte  of  one  of  her  characters,  Victor 
Crimsworth,  in  his  boyhood,  is  said  by  those  who 
knew,  to  have  borne  a  close  resemblance  to  Branwell 
as  they  remembered  him.  "  Victor,"  she  makes 
William  Crimsworth  say,  "  is  pale  and  spare,  with 
large  eyes.  .  .  .  His  shape  is  symmetrical  enough, 
but  slight.  ...  I  never  saw  a  child  smile  less 
than  he  does,  nor  one  who  knits  such  a  formidable 
brow  when  sitting  over  a  book  that  interests  him 
or  while  listening  to  tales  of  adventure,  peril  or 
wonder.  ...  He  had  susceptibility  to  pleasur- 
able sensations  almost  too  keen,  for  it  amounts  to 
enthusiasm.  .  .  .  When  he  could  read,  he  became 
a  glutton  of  books  and  is  so  still.  His  toys  have 
been  few,  and  he  has  never  wanted  more.  .  .  . 
I  discovered  in  the  garden  of  his  intellect  a  rich 
growth  of  wholesome  principles — reason,  justice, 
moral  courage,  promised,  if  not  blighted,  a  fertile 
bearing.  .  .  .  She  (his  mother)  sees,  as  I  see,  a 
something  in  Victor's  temper — a  kind  of  electrical 
ardour  and  power — which  emits  now  and  then 
ominous  sparks.     Hunsden  calls  it  his  spirit,  and 

26  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

says  it  should  not  be  curbed.  I  call  it  the  leaven 
of  the  offending  Adam,  and  consider  that  it  should 
be,  if  not  whipped  out  of  him,  at  least  soundly 
disciplined.  Frances,  his  mother,  gives  this  some, 
thing  in  her  son's  marked  character  no  name, 
but  when  it  appears  ...  in  the  fierce  revolt 
of  feeling  against  disappointment,  mischance, 
sudden  sorrow  or  supposed  injustice,  she  folds 
him  to  her  breast,  or  takes  him  to  walk  with  her 
in  the  wood.  Then  she  reasons  with  him,  and  to 
reason  Victor  is  ever  accessible.  Then  she  looks 
at  him  with  eyes  of  love,  and  by  love  Victor  can 
be  infallibly  subjugated."*  This  is  but  a  fanciful 
picture  for  which  Branwell  may  have  stood  as  the 
original,  but  if  this  was  the  case,  we  are  brought 
in  touch  with  a  disposition  that  was  obviously 
highly  strung  and  sensitive  to  the  utmost  degree. 
An  intense  capacity  for  enjoyment  was  most 
certainly  one  of  his  characteristics,  for  we  read 
of  the  wild  exuberance  of  his  spirits  when,  in  the 
company  of  a  friend,  the  son  of  a  neighbour,  he 
visited  Keighley  Fair.  On  a  later  occasion,  when 
*  Leyland,  I.,  pp.  83  e/  seq. 

Patrick  Bramvell  Bronte  2  7 

he  had  been  sent  by  his  father  to  escort  Charlotte 

to  a  friend's  house  a  few  miles  away,  we  learn 

that  his  ecstacy  knew  no  bounds  at  the  beauties 

of  Miss  Nussey's  dehghtful  home.     "  He  walked 

about  in  unrestrained  boyish  enjoyment,   taking 

views  in  every  direction  of  the  turret-roofed  house, 

the  fine  chestnut  trees  on  the  lawn   .    .   .   and  a 

large  rookery,  which  gave  to  the  house  a  good 

background — all  these  he  noted  and  commented 

upon  with  perfect  enthusiasm.     He  told  his  sister 

he  was  leaving  her  in  Paradise,  and  if  she  were 

not  intensely  happy  she  never  would  be  !  "* 

At  this  time  he  was  between  fifteen  and  sixteen 

years  old. 

This  was   a  critical  period  in   the  boy's  life. 

Beyond  his  years  of  childish  tuition,  he  seems  to 

have  had  no  further  help  from  his  father,  who,  it 

must  be  granted,  was  in  no  way  fitted  by  nature 

or   temperament   to   have   the  up-bringing  of  so 

brilliant,    wayward    and    impulsive    a    youth    as 

Branwcll.     Consequently,  out  of  lesson  hours,  he 

was  left  almost  entirely  to  his  own  devices.     In 

♦  lb.  p.  115. 

28  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

so  retired  and  rural  a  hamlet  what  was  there  for 
the  boy  to  do  save  consort  with  the  youth  of  the 
place  or  listen  to  the  coarse,  if  racy,  conversation 
of  the  sexton,  John  Brown,  who,  being  constantly 
employed  in  the  graveyard,  only  a  stones-throw 
from  the  Parsonage  door,  was  always  at  young 
Master  Bronte's  disposal.  The  Sexton's  "  off " 
hours  were  largely  spent  in  the  bar-parlour  of  the 
Village  Inn,  and  thither  Branwell  often  followed 
him,  either  to  hear  his  stories  or  to  discuss  Pugihsm, 
a  sport  which  has  frequently  a  strong  attraction 
for  delicate  boys  striving  to  show  they  are  as  good 
fighters  as  any  other.  The  "  Noble  Art  of  Self 
Defence  "  was  much  patronized  in  the  early  part 
of  the  last  century  by  the  fashionable  dandies  of 
London,  as  well  as  by  the  leading  country  gentle- 
men. Branwell,  an  enthusiastic  boxer,  was  a 
member  of  the  village  Boxing  Club,  where  no  doubt 
he  met  many  rough  companions  whose  society 
cannot  have  been  either  suitable  or  beneficial  to 
his  temperament  at  this  impressionable  period  of 
his  Hfe.  Still,  it  is  difficult  to  see  how,  without 
being   a  prig,   he  could  have   avoided  the  com- 

Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte  29 

panionship  of  the  youths  who  were  his  father's 
parishioners  and  Sunday  scholars. 

But  though  the  rough  and  tumble  life  he 
shared  with  some  of  his  village  companions  was 
undoubtedly  a  prominent  feature  of  his  early 
youth,  there  were  other  ties  and  attractions  that 
bound  him  more  closely :  the  attachment  he 
had  to  his  sisters,  his  affection  for  his  devoted 
Aunt  Branwell,  and  his  respect  for  his  father's 
teaching  and  character.  At  the  Parsonage  he  spent 
his  time  cultivating  his  mind  with  all  the  good 
literature  within  reach,  in  the  study  of  music, 
to  which  he  was  passionately  devoted,  and  in 
the  serious  pursuit  of  art. 

Branwell  had  lessons  in  music  from  the  teacher 
who  instructed  his  sister  Emily — the  only  really 
gifted  musician  of  the  three  sisters — and  he  also 
played  the  organ.  Whether  he  played  for  the 
Sunday  services  is  not  related,  but  we  hear  of 
him  at  a  later  date,  in  1837,  officiating  as  organist 
at  meetings  of  the  Masonic  Lodge  of  the  Three 
Graces,  held  at  Haworth  in  that  year.  He  was 
particularly    devoted    to    sacred    music,    and    an 

30  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

enthusiastic  admirer  of  the  compositions  of 
Handel,  Hadyn,  Mozart  and  other  great  masters. 
It  is  told  of  him  that  when  the  works  of  these 
great  musicians  were  at  any  time  played  by  his 
friends,  he  would  walk  about  the  rooms  in  an 
ecstacy,  his  eyes  raised  to  the  ceiling,  "  accom- 
panying the  music  with  his  voice  in  an  impassioned 
manner,  and  beating  time  with  his  hand  on  the 
chairs  as  he  passed  to  and  fro."* 

Painting  was,  however,  thought  to  be  his 
greatest  gift,  and  in  company  with  his  sisters, 
particularly  Charlotte,  Branwell  had  drawing 
lessons  from  a  visiting  master,  and  quickly  pro- 
ceeded on  his  own  initiative  to  attempt  oil 
painting.  His  gift  for  obtaining  a  hkeness  of 
his  subject  was  very  noticeable ;  indeed,  so 
marked  was  his  facility  with  brush  and  pencil 
that  the  whole  family  were  convinced  that  art 
would  be  his  vocation,  and  for  several  years  he 
was  strongly  encouraged  by  them  to  persist 
industriously  in  its  pursuit. 

From  all  the  accounts  we  have  of  his  various 
*  "Leyland,"  I.,  p.   ug. 

Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte  31 

accomplishments  at  the  close  of  his  boyhood, 
it  can  scarcely  be  disputed  that  Branwell  Bronte 
was  exceptionally  gifted.  He  was,  moreover,  a 
boy  who  pulsed  with  feeling,  a  boy,  who,  while  he 
danced  with  the  joy  of  young  life,  vibrated  also  with 
all  the  emotions  of  sorrow  when  it  visited  the  little 
domestic  circle  to  which  he  belonged.  In  many 
respects  he  was  as  sensitive  as  a  woman,  and  where 
he  gave  his  affections,  he  became  and  remained 
passionately  attached.  The  pathetic  death  of  his 
two  elder  sisters,  Maria  and  Elizabeth,  when  he  was 
a  boy  of  eight,  made  a  tragic  impression  on  his 
mind,  and  perhaps  laid  the  foundations  of  that 
deep  strain  of  dark  melancholy  that  pervades  all  his 
poetry,  and  which  plunged  him  in  gloom  at 
various  intervals  all  through  his  life.  His  poems 
"  To  Caroline  "  are  supposed  to  have  been  the 
outcome  of  his  musings  on  the  untimely  deaths 
of  his  sisters. 

It  is  scarcely  to  be  wondered  at  if  Branwell, 
marshalled  as  he  was  from  a  very  early  age  in 
all  his  goings  and  comings  by  women,  should 
have  developed  a  marked  sense  of  sex  differen- 

32  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

tiation.  Shut  up  as  he  was  in  a  bare,  dreary, 
moorland  Parsonage  ;  ruled  over  by  a  precise, 
formal  and  elderly  lady,  and  a  harsh-mannered, 
rude-voiced  old  Yorkshire  house-wife,  the  famous 
"  Tabby  "  ;  with  no  other  companions  than  his 
three,  delicate,  prim  sisters,  trained  in  the 
strictest  code  of  Victorian  propriety ;  his  father 
a  grave,  awe-inspiring  elderly  clergyman,  ab- 
sorbed more  closely  in  his  own  personality  than 
in  that  of  his  son — with  such  an  environment, 
is  it  to  be  marvelled  that  he  passionately  longed 
for  the  society  of  his  fellows,  and  that,  the  moment 
lessons  were  over,  he  rushed  to  freedom  with  all 
the  glee  and  impetuosity  of  a  wild  thing  escaping 
from  prison  bars  ?  One  can  imagine  him  scam- 
pering over  the  moors,  shouting  aloud  in  sheer 
dehght  of  living,  strangely  similar  to  that  boy 
of  whom  Wordsworth  wrote  : — 

There  was  a  boy — ye  knew  him  well,  ye  cliffs 
And  islands  of  Winander  !     Many  a  time 
At  evening,  when  the  earliest  stars  began 
To  move  along  the  edges  of  the  hills, 
Rising  or  setting,  he  would  stand  alone. 
Beneath  the  trees,  or  by  the  glimmering  lake  ; 




•Jt   — 


Z  "C 

<  ^ 

aj  re 

O  "^ 

o  > 

<%  c 

s  -^ 





Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  33 

And  there,  with  fingers  interwoven,  both  hands 
Pressed  closely  palm  to  palm,   and  to  his  mouth 
Uplifted,  he,  as  through  an  instrument 
Blew  mimic  hootings  to  the  silent  owls. 
That  they  might  answer  him  *     »     ♦ 

And  when  it  chanced 

That  pauses  of  deep  silence  mocked  his  skill, 

Then,  sometimes  in  that  silence,  while  he  hung 

Listening,  a  gentle  shock  of  mild  surprise 

Has  carried  far  into  his  heart  the  voice 

Of  mountain  torrents  ;   or  the  visible  scene 

Would  enter  unawares  into  his  mind 

With  all  its  solemn  imagery,  its  rocks, 

Its  woods  and   that  uncertain  heaven   received 

Into  the  bosom  of  the  steady  lake. 


"  I  DON'T  KNOW  WHAT  TO  DO." 

These  words  uttered  listlessly  by  Branwell  when 
he  was  a  boy  of  between  seven  and  eight,  as  he 
and  his  sisters  were  seated  round  the  kitchen  fire 
one  winter  evening,  and  which  brought  from 
Charlotte  the  bright  suggestion  that  they  should 
play  at  choosing  an  Island,*  were  almost  pro- 
phetically significant  of  Branwell's  attitude  to- 
wards the  various  dilemmas  in  which  he  found 
himself  at  subsequent  periods  of  his  life.  At  the 
age  of  seventeen  it  became  incumbent  on  him  to 
choose  a  career.  It  may  be  supposed  that  his 
father  would  have  been  well  satisfied  had  his  son 
shown  an  inclination  to  qualify  as  a  clergyman. 
But  Branwell  had  no  such  desire  either  then  or 
afterwards.  It  is  probable  that,  this  being  the 
case,  Mr.  Bronte  did  not  take  the  same  interest 
in  his  son's  future  which  he  would  have  done  had 

*  "  Life,"  p.  53. 

Patrick  Bramtfll  Bronte  35 

Bran  well  staidly  adopted  his  own  profession. 
But  Charlotte,  who  was  in  a  sense  the  leading  spirit 
at  the  Parsonage,  was  at  this  time  much  impressed 
with  her  brother's  abilities,  and  looked  to  him 
to  accomplish  great  things.  His  gift  for  drawing 
was,  so  far,  the  most  outstanding  of  his  per- 
formances, and  seemed  to  hold  out  the  greatest 
chances  of  success.  He  had  either  at  this  time 
or  a  few  years  later,  probably  in  1839,  made  a  life- 
size  painting  of  his  three  sisters,  which  Mrs.  Gaskell 
saw  before  it  had  faded,  and  of  which  she  writes 
as  follows  :  "  It  was  a  group  of  his  sisters,  life-size, 
three-quarter  length  ;  not  much  better  than  sign- 
painting  as  to  manipulation,  but  the  Ukenesses 
were,  I  should  think,  admirable.  I  could  only 
judge  of  the  fidelity  with  which  the  other  two  were 
depicted  from  the  striking  resemblance  which 
Charlotte  .  .  .  standing  right  behind  it,  bore  to 
her  own  representation,  though  it  must  have  been 
ten  years  or  more  since  the  portraits  were  taken. 
.  .  .  They  were  good  likenesses,  however  badly 
executed.  From  whence  I  should  guess  his 
family  augured  truly  that,  if  Branwell  had  but  the 

36  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

opportunity    ...   he   might    turn   out   a   great 

After,  we  may  be  sure,  a  most  careful  considera- 
tion of  the  question,  it  was  decided  that  Branwell 
should   seek   entry   as   a   student   at   the   Royal 
Academy  Schools,   and  he  accordingly  wrote  to 
the    secretary    for    information.     All    we    know 
further  is  that  in  1835  he  proceeded  to  London 
with  a  view  to  presenting  himself  as  a  student, 
and  that  within  a  week  he  returned  to  the  Parson- 
age without  having  achieved  the  exciting  purpose 
for  which  he  had  so  high-heartedly  set  out.     To 
those  who  know  the  qualifying  conditions  of  study 
at  the  Academy  Schools  there  will  appear  nothing 
singular  in  Branwell's  sudden  return,  though  his 
detractors,   hastening   to   use   even   this   for   the 
purpose  of  defaming  him,  and,  without  a  shadow  of 
foundation  for  their  assertions,  insidiously  suggest 
that  his  failure  was  the  outcome  of  indulgence  in  a 
course  of  dissipation  at  the  first  opportunity  that 
presented  itself. 

Mrs.  Gaskell  in  this  connection  writes  absolute 
*  "  Life,"  p.  88. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  37 

nonsense  about  "  sisters  who  have  laid  their  lives 
as  a  sacrifice  before  their  brother's  idolised  wish," 
which  is  nothing  to  the  point,  as  his  sisters  were 
in  no  way  affected  by  Branwell's  apphcation  at 
the  Academy  Schools,  though  they  might  have 
been  had  he  selfishly  decided  to  remain  there  and 
go  through  the  necessary  course  of  training. 
But  to  talk  of  "  sacrifice  "  is  ridiculous  :  some 
opportunity  of  training  for  a  profession  was  in 
any  case  due  to  the  boy  if  he  were  to  support 
himself  in  life,  and  had  he  decided  to  enter  the 
Church,  he  would  have  needed  some  course  of 
college  training.  But  this  week  in  London  was 
all  he  got,  and  yet  Miss  Sinclair  talks  glibly  about 
his  having  "  had  his  chance  ".*  Even  Mr.  Shorter 
makes  the  totally  unsupported  assertion  that  the 
youth  "  probably  wasted  the  money  and  his  father 
refused  supplies. "| 

Mr.  Leyland,  however,  writes  with  sense  and 
judgment  upon  the  matter,  and  he  has  an  especial 
right  to  do  so,  as  his  brother,  the  sculptor,  was  then 

•  Sinclair,  "  The  Three  Brontes,"  p.  17     (Hutchinson), 
t   Shorter,  "  The  Bronte  Circle  "   (Dent). 

38  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

living  in  London,  in  close  touch  with  some  of  the 
greatest  artists  of  the  day  ;  and  it  is  more  than 
probable  that  under  his  patronage  the  lad  made 
this  first  venture.  "  It  would,"  says  Mr.  Leyland, 
"  seem  scarcely  possible  that  the  difficulties 
attending  Branwell's  admission  as  a  student 
at  the  Royal  Academy  had  been  duly  considered. 
He  could  not  be  admitted  without  a  preliminary 
examination  of  his  drawings  from  the  antique 
and  the  skeleton,  to  ascertain  if  his  ability  as  a 
draughtsman  was  of  such  an  order  as  would 
qualify  him  for  studentship  ;  and  if  successful 
in  this,  he  would  be  required  to  undergo  a  regular 
course  of  education  and  to  pass  through  the  various 
schools  where  professors  and  academicians  attended 
to  give  instruction.  No  doubt  it  was  wished  that 
Branwell  should  have  a  regular  and  prolonged 
preparation  for  his  professional,  artistic  career ; 
but  it  would  have  lasted  for  years  and  the  pecuniary 
strain  consequent  upon  it  would  perhaps  have  been 
severely  felt,  even  if  Branwell's  genius  had  justified 
the  outlay."* 

*  "  Leyland,"  I.,  p.   142-146. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  39 

It  is  greatly  to  Branwell's  credit  that  he  at  once 
grasped  this  aspect  of  the  case.  He  probably 
talked  the  matter  over  with  the  sculptor — after- 
wards his  life-long  friend — and  decided  that  he 
was  not  justified  in  putting  such  a  strain  upon  his 
father's  resources,  and  so,  after  a  wonderful  week 
of  sight-seeing  in  the  city  of  his  dreams,  he  made 
the  best  of  it,  and  bravely  returned  to  Haworth. 
This  was  indeed  the  only  manly  course  to  take, 
and  he  took  it.  But  the  boy's  own  bitter  dis- 
appointment and  disillusion  may  be  better  imagined 
than  expressed,  and  we  know  that  he  referred  to 
it  in  a  conversation  with  his  friend,  Mr.  George 
Searle  Phillips,  who  mentions  it  in  his  account 
of  Branwell  published  in  the  "  Mirror  "  for  1872. 

Branwell  was  not  immediately  discouraged. 
He  could  not  afford  London,  but  an  arrangement 
was  made,  possibly  by  the  generosity  of  his  aunt 
Miss  Branwell,  by  which  he  should  take  a  short 
course  of  lessons  in  Bradford,  in  the  studio  of  the 
artist  who  had  previously  given  him  and  Charlotte 
some  occasional  lessons  at  Haworth.  He  worked 
with  Mr.  Robinson  for  a  few  months,  and  then. 

40  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

possibly  fired  by  the  example  of  the  great  Chantry's 
humble  beginnings,  he  started  as  portrait  painter 
on  his  own  account  in  that  town.  Although  he 
received  certain  commissions,  and  lived  frugally, 
it  was  not  possible  to  make  a  profitable  business 
out  of  so  precarious  an  occupation  ;  the  days 
of  black-and-white  work,  in  which  he  would  prob- 
ably have  excelled,  had  not  yet  come  ;  and  after 
a  heart-breaking  struggle,  Branwell,  in  1839, 
decided  to  abandon  the  pursuit  of  art  altogether. 
Miss  Sinclair  dismisses  Branwell's  art  career 
very  jauntily.  "  He  went  to  London,"  she  says, 
"  but  nothing  came  of  it.  He  went  to  Bradford 
and  had  a  studio  there,  but  nothing  came  of  it."* 
Nothing  for  Branwell  possibly,  but,  I  venture 
to  think,  much  for  ourselves.  Had  it  not  been  for 
Branwell's  great  gift,  not  of  painting,  perhaps, 
but  of  portraiture,  how  much  poorer  should  we 
be  to-day  !  For  is  it  not  to  his  gift  of  perception 
and  insight  which  found  in  the  countenances  of 
his  three  sisters  something  arresting,  something 
akin  to  greatness,  perceived  by  no  one  else,  that 
*  "  The  Three  Brontes,"  p.   17. 

Emily  Bronx K. 

From  a  painting  by  Patrick  Branwi-ll  Bronte. 

(Reproduced  by  kind  permission  of  the  National  Portrait 
Gallery,  London.) 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  41 

we  have  preserved  for  us,  although  in  ruins,  the 
group  of  the  three  Brontes  which  Mrs.  Gaskell 
saw  and  described  in  its  first  freshness  ?  This  we 
owe  assuredly  to  the  Bradford  period.  And  if 
Branwell  had  no  other  fame,  he  has  at  least  one 
species  of  immortality  as  the  painter  of  his  sister 
Emily's  profile  portrait,  in  which  he  has  caught 
the  very  soul  and  spirit  of  his  subject,  and  given 
her  to  us  in  all  her  Dantesque  severity  and  aloof- 
ness, given  her  to  us  clothed  with  all  the  fatality 
of  a  Greek  tragic  figure,  a  second  Antigone,  gazing 
intently  into  Eternity.  Only  an  innately  fine 
artist  could  have  given  us  this  ;  the  colours  have 
perished,  but  the  flame-like  spirit  of  Emily  remains 
and  fires  the  faded  canvas.  Who,  having  seen 
even  the  wreck  of  this  portrait  of  Emily  Bronte 
can  be  unmindful  of  the  undeveloped  genius  of 
the  artist  brother  who  conceived  and  limned  it  ? 
Who,  having  dwelt  on  the  truth  of  its  execution, 
and  the  inexhaustible  wonder  of  its  subject,  can 
truthfully  say  that  "  nothing  came  "  of  Branwell 
Bronte's  art  studies  at  Bradford  ? 

While  at  Bradford  he  made  many  friends  among 

42  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

the  most  cultured  artistic  circles  to  be  found  there. 
His  musical  abilities  also  won  him  many  friends 
in  the  town.  Those  who  knew  him  there  describe 
him  as  "  a  quiet,  unassuming  young  man,  retiring 
and  difhdent,  seeming  rather  of  a  passive  nature 
and  delicate  constitution  than  otherwise."  Miss 
Mary  F.  Robinson's  statements  that  he  left  the 
town  heavily  in  debt,  and  was  both  a  drunkard  and 
an  opium-eater  are,  says  Mr.  Leyland  "  simply 
untrue."  "  I  have,"  he  goes  on  to  say,  "  the 
positive  information  of  one  who  knew  Bran  well 
in  Leeds,  and  who  resided  in  Bradford  when  he  was 
there,  that  he  did  not  leave  that  town  in  debt ; 
that  he  certainly  was  not  a  drunkard,  and  that 
if  he  took  anything  at  all  it  was  but  occasionally, 
and  then  no  more  than  the  commonest  custom 
would  permit."  In  conclusion,  Mr.  Leyland 
speaks  with  admiration  of  Branwell's  "  honest, 
upright  and  honourable  endeavour  to  make  a  living 
by  the  profession  of  Art  at  Bradford."* 

Other  forces  were  at  this  time  also  working  in 
Branwell's  mind.     He  had,  since  boyhood,  never 
♦  "  Leyland,"  I.,  p.   178. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  43 

ceased  the  writing  of  tales  and  romances.  As 
late  as  this  Bradford  period,  he  had  written  a 
story  entitled  "  Percy".  He  continually  produced 
poems,  most  of  them  tinged  with  that  constitu- 
tional melancholy  which  was  one  of  his  most 
abiding  characteristics.  Great  powers  were  un- 
doubtedly stirring  within  him,  but  he  was,  his 
Bradford  friends  noted,  diffident  ;  the  source  of 
this  want  of  self-confidence  may  very  well  have 
been  the  undoubted  frailty  of  his  constitution, 
already  pre-disposed  to  a  consumptive  tendency. 
None  the  less,  his  spirit  was  brave,  and  he  left 
no  means  untried  to  di.scover  what  career  he  might 
adopt  which  would  enable  him  to  relieve  his  father 
from  the  burden  of  supporting  him. 

It  was  during  what  we  may  call  this  "  Bradford 
Period "  that  Branwell  occupied  his  available 
leisure  in  literary — chiefly  poetic — attempts.  Being 
very  anxious  to  succeed,  and  scarcely  knowing  to 
whom  to  turn  for  guidance,  he  wrote  to  Words- 
worth, and,  enclosing  some  of  his  verses,  ventured 
to  solicit  his  opinion  as  to  whether  he  was  justified 
in   pursuing   his   literary   ambitions.     I   give   the 

44  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

letter  in  full,  as  I  think  it  is  valuable  evidence  of 
one  side  of  Branwell's  character,  a  side  which  has 
been  so  little  brought  into  prominence  by  his  many 
detractors  :* 

"  Haworth,  near  Bradford. 


January  igth,  1837. 
"  Sir, 

"  I  most  earnestly  entreat  you  to  read  and 
pass  your  judgment  upon  what  I  have  sent  you, 
because  from  the  day  of  my  birth  to  this,  the 
nineteenth  year  of  my  life,  I  have  lived  among 
secluded  hills,  where  I  could  neither  know  what 
I  was  or  what  I  could  do.  I  read  for  the  same 
reason  that  I  ate  or  drank — because  it  was  a  real 
craving  of  nature  ;  I  wrote  on  the  same  principle 
as  I  spoke,  out  of  the  impulse  and  feelings  of  the 
mind ;  nor  could  I  help  it,  for  what  came,  came 
out,  and  there  was  the  end  of  it.  For  as  to  self- 
conceit,  that  could  not  receive  food  from  flattery, 
since  to  this  hour  not  half-a-dozen  people  in  the 
world  know  that  I  have  penned  a  line. 
*  GaskeU,  "  Life,"  p.  98-99- 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  45 

"  But  a  change  has  taken  place  now,  Sir  ;  and 
I  am  arrived  at  an  age  wherein  I  must  do  something 
for  myself  :  the  powers  I  possess  must  be  exercised 
to  a  definite  end,  and  as  I  don't  know  them  myself, 
I  must  ask  of  others  what  they  are  worth.  Yet 
there  is  not  one  here  to  tell  me  ;  and  still,  if  they 
are  worthless,  time  will  henceforth  be  too  precious 
to  be  wasted  on  them. 

"  Do  pardon  me.  Sir,  that  I  have  ventured  to 
come  before  one  whose  works  I  have  most  loved 
in  our  literature,  and  who  most  has  been  with 
me  a  divinity  of  the  mind,  laying  before  him  one 
of  my  writings,  and  asking  of  him  a  judgment 
of  its  contents.  I  must  come  before  someone 
from  whose  sentence  there  is  no  appeal ;  and  such 
a  one  is  he  who  has  developed  the  theory  of  poetry 
as  well  as  its  practice,  and  both  in  such  a  way  as 
to  claim  a  place  in  the  memory  of  a  thousand 
years  to  come. 

"  My  aim,  Sir,  is  to  push  out  into  the  open  world, 
and  for  this  I  trust  not  poetry  alone — that  might 
launch  the  vessel,  but  could  not  bear  her  on  ; 
sensible  and  scientific  prose,  bold  and  vigorous 

46  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

efforts  in  my  walk  in  life,  would  give  a  further 
title  to  the  notice  of  the  world  ;  and  then  again, 
poetry  ought  to  brighten  and  crown  that  name  with 
glory ;  but  nothing  of  all  this  can  be  ever  begun 
without  means,  and  as  I  don't  possess  these 
I  must  in  every  shape  strive  to  gain  them.  Surely 
in  this  day,  when  there  is  not  a  writing  poet  worth 
a  sixpence,  the  field  must  be  open,  if  a  better  man 
can  step  forward. 

"  What  I  send  you  is  the  Prefatory  Scene  of  a 
much  longer  subject,  in  which  I  have  striven  to 
develop  strong  passions  and  weak  principles 
struggling  with  a  high  imagination  and  acute 
feelings,  till,  as  youth  hardens  towards  old  age, 
evil  deeds  and  short  enjoyments  end  in  mental 
misery  and  bodily  ruin.  Now,  to  send  you  the 
whole  of  this  would  be  a  mock  upon  your  patience  ; 
what  you  see  does  not  even  pretend  to  be  more 
than  the  description  of  an  imaginative  child.  But 
read  it,  Sir  ;  and,  as  you  would  hold  a  light  to  one 
in  utter  darkness,  as  you  value  your  own  kind- 
heartedness,  return  me  an  answer  if  but  one  word, 
telling  me  whether  I  should  write  on,  or  write 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  47 

no  more.  Forgive  undue  warmth,  because  my 
feelings  in  this  matter  cannot  be  cool ;  and  be- 
Heve  me,  Sir,  with  deep  respect, 

"  Your  really  humble  servant, 

"P.   B.   Bronte." 

Mr.  Shorter  has  referred  very  slightingly  to 
Branwell's  letters  in  comparison  with  his  sister 
Charlotte's,  but  I  think  no  one  can  read  the  one 
I  have  just  quoted  without  being  touched  by  its 
tone  of  courteous  deference  and  the  lucid  beauty 
of  its  style.  The  paragraph  in  which  he  asks 
Wordsworth  to  pardon  his  appeal  is  one  of  re- 
markable grace,  and  there  are  many  other 
passages  in  the  letter,  particularly  towards  the 
close,  that  are  affecting  by  the  natural,  simple 
eloquence  of  their  entreaty.  A  youth  of  nine- 
teen who  could  write  so  well  as  this  had  assuredly 
a  future  before  him,  if  he  could  but  meet  with 
sufficient  opportunities  of  exercising  his  already 
uncommon   gifts   of   hterary   expression. 

But  one  of  the  outstanding  disadvantages  from 
which   Branwell   Bronte   suffered   throughout   his 

48  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

life  was  that — as  he  confessed  so  naively  in  this 
letter — he  did  not  know  what  powers  he  possessed, 
and  when  he  was  on  the  verge  of  discovering  them, 
misfortunes  assailed  him,  and  he  died  without 
coming  into  the  heritage  actually  awaiting  him. 

Soon  after  his  return  from  Bradford,  we  find 
Branwell  accepting  the  situation  of  tutor  in  the 
family  of  a  Mr.  Postlethwaite  of  Broughton- 
in-Furness,  and  entering  upon  his  duties  there 
on  the  first  of  January,  1840.  While  in  this 
neighbourhood  it  is  recorded  that  he  tramped 
among  the  lovely  hills  and  valleys  of  that  beautiful 
country,  and  it  is  suggested  that  he  may  have  been 
received  by  Wordsworth,  for  whom,  as  we  have 
seen,  he  cherished  a  deeply  reverent  admiration. 
He  certainly  was  acquainted  with  Hartley  Coleridge, 
who  gave  him  a  favourable  opinion  upon 
some  work  he  had  submitted.  His  mind  con- 
tinued to  be  occupied  chiefly  with  Hterature, 
and  he  wrote  his  poem  on  "  Black  Comb  "  at 
this  time. 

It  was  while  he  was  at  Broughton  that  Branwell 
sent  his  old  friend  and  crony,  John  Brown,  the 

Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte  49 

letter  which  so  scandalized  Miss  Mary  F.  Robinson. 
It  was  wTitten  in  a  roystering,  devil-may-care 
spirit,  probably  to  throw  off,  for  an  hour  at  least, 
the  constraint  of  solemn  behaviour,  unnatural 
to  any  young  man  of  his  age,  which,  in  his  position 
as  tutor,  he  was  obliged  to  assume.  It  was  never 
meant  for  pubhcation,  but  being  proudly  treasured 
in  the  sexton's  family,  has  been  given  to  the  world. 

Mrs.  Gaskell,  writing  of  Branwell  as  he  appeared 
to  his  family  about  the  year  1840,  says  :  "At  this 
time  the  young  man  seemed  to  have  his  fate  in 
his  own  hands.  He  was  full  of  noble  impulses, 
as  well  as  of  extraordinary  gifts  ;  not  accustomed 
to  resist  temptation,  it  is  true,  from  any  higher 
motive  than  strong  family  affection,  but  showing 
so  much  power  of  attachment  to  all  about  him, 
that  they  took  pleasure  in  believing  that  after  a 
time  he  would  'right  himself,  and  that  they  should 
have  pride  and  delight  in  the  use  he  would  then 
make  of  his  splendid  talents  ;  ...  in  early 
youth  his  power  of  attracting  and  attaching 
people  was  so  great  that  few  came  in  contact 
with  him  who  were  not  so  much  dazzled  by  him 

50  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

as  to  be  desirous  of  gratifying  whatever  wishes 
he  expressed.  ...  I  have  seen  Branwell's  profile  ; 
it  is  what  would  be  generally  esteemed  very 
handsome ;  the  forehead  is  massive,  the  eye 
well  set,  and  the  expression  of  it  fine  and  in- 
tellectual ;  the  nose  too  is  good  ;  but  there  are 
coarse  lines  about  the  mouth,  while  the  slightly 
retreating  chin  conveys  an  idea  of  weakness 
of  will.  His  hair  and  complexion  were  sandy. 
He  had  enough  Irish  blood  in  him  to  make  his 
manners  frank  and  genial,  with  a  kind  of  natural 
gallantry  about  them.  In  a  fragment  of  one 
of  his  manuscripts  which  I  have  read,  there  is  a 
justness  and  felicity  of  expression  which  is  very 
striking.  It  is  the  beginning  of  a  tale  and  the 
actors  in  it  are  drawn  with  much  of  the  grace 
of  characteristic  portrait-painting  in  perfectly 
pure  and  simple  language,  which  distinguishes 
so  many  of  Addison's  papers  in  the  Spectator. 
.  .  .  But  altogether  the  elegance  and  com- 
posure of  style  are  such  as  one  would  not  have 
expected  from  this  vehement  and  ill-fated  young 
man.     He  had  a  stronger  desire  for  literary  fame 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  51 

burning  in  his  heart  than  even  that  which  occa- 
sionally flashed  up  in  his  sister's.  He  tried 
various  outlets  for  his  talents.  ...  In  1840 
he  was  living  at  home,  employing  himself  in 
occasional  composition  of  various  kinds,  and 
waiting  till  some  employment  for  which  he  might 
be  fitted  without  any  expensive  course  of  pre- 
liminary   education,    should    turn    up."* 

There  are,  I  think,  a  few  points  in  Mrs.  Gaskell's 
description  which  seem  to  invite  attention.  It 
will  be  seen  how  much  she  admired  Branwell's 
prose  style,  but  it  will  also  be  noticed  that  she  was 
so  afraid  of  bestowing  unqualified  praise  upon  one 
whom  she  regarded  as  a  backslider,  that  she 
modifies  it  with  the  expression  of  her  astonishment 
at  finding  it  so  good.  What  connection  there  can 
be  between  an  author's  personal  ill-fortune  and 
his  method  of  writing  is  difficult  to  conjecture. 
What  is  made  plain  by  Mrs.  Gaskell  is  that 
Branwell  possessed  a  captivating  personality,  and  a 
fascination  of  manner  which  goes  far  to  explain 
much  that  subsequently  befell  him. 
•  "Life,"  123-4. 

52  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

Another  point  that  calls  for  notice  is  the  obvious 
determination  of  Mr.  Bronte  not  to  spend  any 
money  on  preparing  his  son  for  any  of  the  pro- 
fessions. We  hear  that  the  old  gentleman  was 
never  weary  of  relating  how  he  had  managed 
to  make  his  way  to  Cambridge  and  win  his  degree. 
But  possibly  he  omitted  to  tell  of  the  kind  patron 
he  had  in  the  vicar  of  his  native  parish,  a  certain 
Mr.  Tighe,  by  the  aid  of  whose  interest  and 
liberality  he  had  been  able  to  be  admitted  to 
the  University.  The  obvious  thing  would  have 
been  to  send  Branwell  to  try  his  fortune  at  Cam- 
bridge, even  for  a  year.  With  the  help  of  his 
aunt  it  would  have  been  possible  to  raise  the 
money  for  a  year's  course  at  least,  and  such  a 
brilliant  youth  as  Branwell  would  assuredly  have 
repaid  the  training.  But  the  only  available 
capital  was  Miss  Branwell's  savings,  and  that  was 
shortly  to  be  annexed  by  that  vehement  indi- 
vidualist, his  sister  Charlotte,  when  she  per- 
suaded her  aunt  to  advance  £ioo  or  more,  to 
enable  her  and  Emily  to  study  at  Brussels.  She 
even  refers  to  her  father's  ambitions  to  enforce 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  53 

her  argument.  "  I  want  us  all  to  get  on,"  she 

Such  a  sum  spent  in  getting  Branwell  out  of 
the  wretched  village  influences  into  a  scholarly 
environment,  where  he  could  have  absorbed  the 
culture  for  which  he  so  ardently  hungered,  might 
have  altered  the  whole  course  of  his  life.  It 
was  certainly  not  the  sisters  who  were  sacrificed. 
The  boy  was  mis-handled  from  his  earliest  years. 
He  had  no  suitable  guide  or  counsellor  in  his 
father,  who  was  too  self-absorbed  to  concern  him- 
self with  his  boy's  future,  and  who,  having  sown 
neglect,  reaped  the  harvest  he  might  have  ex- 

Mrs.  Gaskell  refers  to  Branwell  as  being  at  home 
in  the  year  1840.  He  was  there  only  from  June 
till  October,  having  at  his  father's  instance  re- 
signed his  appointment  at  Broughton  only  six 
months  after  he  had  received  it.  Meanwhile, 
as  Mrs.  Gaskell  tells  us,  he  was  occupying  himself 
in  "  occasional  composition".  By  a  strange  and 
most  fortunate  chance  some  of  these  "compositions" 
have  come  into  the  possession  of  a  critic  competent 

54  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

in  the  highest  degree  to  pronounce  upon  them. 
Mr.  John  Drinkwater  has  discovered,  edited  and 
privately  printed*  a  newly  found  MS.  of  Branwell 
Bronte's,  signed  by  him,  and  dated  "  Haworth, 
Nr.  Bradford,  Yorks,  June  27th,  1840."  This 
MS.  is  nothing  less  than  a  verse  translation  of 
"  The  Odes  of  Quintus  Horatius  Flaccus,"  all  but 
the  last,  of  which  Branwell  says,  to  quote  from 
Mr.  Drinkwater's  volume  :  "  This  Ode  I  have  no 
heart  to  attempt,  after  having  heard  Mr.  H. 
Coleridge's  translation,  on  May  Day,  at  Ambleside." 
Mr.  Drinkwater  supposes  that  most  of  these 
translations  were  made  while  Branwell  was  at  Mr. 
Postlethwaite's,  and  probably  the  remainder 
at  Haworth,  after  he  returned  home,  and  he  finds 
these  verses  to  be  Branwell's  "  best  achievement, 
so  far  as  we  can  judge,  as  a  poet."  They  are, 
he  says,  unequal,  "  but  they  also  have  a  great 
many  passages  of  clear  lyrical  beauty,  and  they 

•  As  only  fifty  copies  have  been  issued,  I  have  not 
been  able  to  examine  Branwell's  Translations,  but  Mr. 
Drinkwater  most  courteously  allowed  me  to  see  a  copy 
of  his  Introduction,  from  which  I  have  made  the  above 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  55 

have  something  of  the  style  that  comes  from  a 
spiritual  understanding,  as  apart  from  merely 
formal  knowledge,  of  great  models."  After  pass- 
ing in  brief  review  the  various  verse  translations 
of  Horace  from  Ben  Jonson  to  John  Conington, 
whom  Mr.  Drinkwater  regards  as  the  "  most 
consistently  attractive  "  of  them  all,  he  adds : 
"  Branwell  Bronte's  Translations  of  the  First 
Book  of  Odes  need,  at  their  best,  fear  comparison 
with  none." 

Of  at  least  half  the  Odes,  Mr.  Drinkwater  goes 
on  to  say:  "  They  are  excellent  in  themselves  and 
as  good  as  any  English  versions  that  I  know, 
including  Conington's.  In  a  few  instances,  I 
should  say  that  they  are  decidedly  the  best  of 
all  ...  in  some  whole  poems,  as  in  the 
lovely  rendering  of  xxi,  there  is  hardly  a  flaw  from 
beginning  to  end.  At  his  best  he  has  melody 
and  phrase,  and  he  builds  his  stanzas  well.  .  .  . 
The  book  adds  appreciably  to  the  evidence  that 
Branwell  Bronte  was  the  second  poet  in  his  family 
and  a  very  good  second  at  that,  and  it  leaves  no 
justification  for  anyone  to  say  that  he  '  composed 

56  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

nothing  which  gives  him  the  sHghtest  claim  to 
the  most  inconsiderable  niche  in  the  temple  of 
hterature.'  "* 

Branwell  spent  the  summer  of  1840  in  anxious 
enquiry  after  a  new  kind  of  occupation,  and 
finally  obtained  a  post  as  Clerk-in-Charge  at  one 
of  the  tiny  new  stations  on  the  Leeds  and  Man- 
chester Railway.  He  commenced  his  duties  at 
this  place,  Sowerby  Bridge,  on  the  first  of  October, 
with  great  zest,  but  perhaps  without  realising  to 
the  full  how  extremely  unsuited  he  was  both  by 
training  and  temperament  for  the  kind  of  re- 
sponsibility he  had  undertaken.  He  was  above 
all  things,  anxious  for  some  remunerative  work 
by  which  he  might  be  able  to  support  himself, 
as  he  now  did  for  the  next  two  years. 

The  strenuous  efforts  of  Branwell  to  obtain 
employment — even  employment  highly  distaste- 
ful to  him — do  him  the  highest  credit.  He  did 
not  lose  an  hour  in  seeking  to  find  some  outlet 
for  his  energy,  and  to  earn  an  income  which,  if 

*  Quoted  from  Mr.  Clement  Shorter's  account  of 
Branwell  Bronte,  in  "  The  Brontes  and  their  Circle," 
p.   113. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  57 

it  did  not  enable  him  to  save,  at  least  kept  him 
from  being  a  burden  on  his  father. 

But  as  regards  the  duties  attached  to  the  post, 
light  as  they  were,  they  were  strangely  unsuitable 
and  tiresome  to  a  youth  of  his  excitable  and  poetic 
temperament.  His  heart  could  not  be  in  them 
as,  in  duty  to  his  employers,  it  should  have  been. 
He  was  temptingly  near  Halifax,  where  his  friend 
Leyland  lived,  and  he  often  went  over  to  see  him, 
After  a  time  he  was  moved  to  another  charge, 
to  the  care  of  the  new  halting-place  at  Luddenden 
Foot,  where  he  had  to  spend  all  day  in  a  miserable 
wooden  shanty,  stuffy  in  summer,  and  penetrated 
by  wind  and  rain  in  the  spring,  winter  and  autumn 
months,  a  residence  extremely  unfitted  for  a 
youth  so  constitutionally  delicate  as  Branwell 
Bronte.  While  he  was  employed  at  Sowerby 
Bridge,  Mr.  Francis  Leyland  was  taken  by  his 
brother,  the  sculptor,  to  see  Branwell  at  the 
station  there.  He  gives  us  his  impressions  of 
him  as  he  appeared  in  the  autumn  of  the  year  1840. 

"  The  young  railway  clerk  was  of  gentleman- 
like appearance,  and  seemed  to  be  qualified  for  a 

68  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

much  better  position  than  the  one  he  had  chosen. 
In  stature  he  was  a  Httle  below  the  middle  height, 
not  '  almost  insignificantly  small '  as  Mr.  Grundy 
states.  .  .  .  He  was  slim  and  agile  in  figure  yet 
of  well-formed  outline.  His  complexion  was  clear 
and  ruddy,  and  the  expression  of  his  face,  at  the 
time,  lightsome  and  cheerful.  His  voice  had  a 
ringing  sweetness,  and  the  utterance  and  use  of 
his  EngUsh  was  perfect.  Branwell  appeared  to 
be  in  excellent  spirits,  and  shewed  none  of  those 
traces  of  intemperance  with  which  some  writers 
have  unjustly  credited  him  about  this  period  of 
his  life. 

My  brother  had  often  spoken  to  me  of  Branwell's 
poetical  abilities,  his  conversational  powers  and 
the  polish  of  his  education  ;  and,  on  a  personal 
acquaintance,  I  found  nothing  to  question  in  this 
estimate  of  his  mental  gifts  and  of  his  literary 

Another  personal  impression  of  Branwell  when 
he  was  at  Luddenden  Foot,  is  given  by  Mr.  William 
Heaton,  who  knew  him  well.  I  quote  it  as  it  is 
given  in  Mr.  Leyland's  pages,  f 

♦  "  Leyland,"  I.,  266.  f  lb.,  268. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  59 

"  He  was,"  says  Mr.  Heaton,  "  blithe  and  gay, 
but  at  times  appeared  downcast  and  sad  ;  yet  if 
the  subject  were  some  topic  that  he  was  acquainted 
with,  or  some  author  he  loved,  he  would  rise  from 
his  seat,  and  in  beautiful  language,  describe  the 
author's  character,  with  a  zeal  and  fluency  I 
had  never  heard  equalled.  His  talents  were  of 
a  very  exalted  kind.  I  have  heard  him  quote 
pieces  from  the  bard  of  Avon,  from  Shelley, 
Wordsworth  and  Byron,  as  well  as  from  Butler's 
'  Hudibras,'  in  such  a  manner  as  often  made  me 
wish  I  had  been  a  scholar  as  he  was.  ...  He 
lent  me  books  which  I  had  never  seen  before, 
and  was  ever  ready  to  give  me  information. 
His  temper  was  always  mild  towards  me.  I  shall 
never  forget  his  love  for  the  sublime  and  beauti- 
ful works  of  Nature,  nor  how  he  would  tell  of  the 
lovely  flowers  and  rare  plants  he  had  observed 
by  the  mountain  stream  and  woodland  rill.  All 
these  had  excellencies  for  him  ;  and  I  have  often 
heard  him  dilate  on  the  sweet  strains  of  the 
nightingale,  and  on  the  thoughts  that  bewitched 
him  the  first  time  he  heard  one."* 

*  "  Leyland,"  I.,  p.  269. 

60  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

While  at  Luddenden  Foot  Branwell  made 
many  local  excursions  up  that  lovely  valley. 
He  had  friends  in  the  neighburhood  at  Hebden 
Bridge,  and  we  hear  from  Mr.  Leyland  that 
sometimes  '  clerical  visitors  '  called  at  his  wooden 
shanty  to  hear  his  brilliant  conversation.  They 
invited  him  to  their  houses  also,  and  it  was  while 
here  that  Branwell  paid  a  visit  to  Manchester 
Cathedral.  But  these  excursions  drew  him  away 
from  his  proper  duties ;  he  did  not  attend  as 
closely  to  his  work  as  he  ought  to  have  done  ; 
frequently  he  left  it  in  charge  of  his  deputy ; 
and  he  was  undoubtedly  careless  in  his  accounts. 
The  Company  invited  him  to  appear  before  them 
and  explain  these  irregularities.  They  decided 
to  terminate  his  engagement  with  them,  and  so, 
after  two  years  of  employment,  ended  Branwell's 
career  as  a  railway  clerk. 

It  was  an  ignominious  ending,  and  it  plunged 
him  in  the  greatest  gloom.  He  felt  keenly  the 
disgrace  attached  to  his  dismissal,  all  the  more 
because  it  was  such  a  disappointment  to  his 
family.     He    had    supported    himself    for    two 

Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte  61 

years,  however,  and  immediately  began  to  look 
out  for  another  situation.  He  applied  to  Mr. 
Grundy,  but  that  gentleman  did  nothing  for  him, 
probably  feeling  convinced  that  business  was 
the  last  thing  for  which  his  dreamy,  volatile, 
poetical  friend  was  fitted.  But  he  answered  in 
a  friendly  tone,  suggesting  he  should  try  one 
of  the  professions.  This  meant  the  Church,  and 
for  the  Church  Branwell  declared  he  had  no 
mental  qualification  which  might  make  him 
"  cut  a  figure  in  its  pulpits  .  .  .  save,  per- 
haps, hypocrisy."  But  he  goes  on  to  say  that 
Mr.  James  Montgomery  and  another  literary 
gentleman,  who  had  seen  something  of  his  work, 
advised  him  to  "  turn  his  attention  to  Litera- 
ture." To  this  career,  as  we  know,  Branwell 
was  much  attracted  already,  though  he  did  not 
take  himself  with  any  great  seriousness  as  yet. 
He  admits  to  Mr.  Grundy  that  he  has  "  little 
conceit  of  himself,"  but  a  great  desire  for  activity. 
He  was  in  fact  infected  with  that  fever  of  rest- 
lessness which  seems  to  have  burned  alike  in 
his  veins  and  those  of  his  sister  Charlotte.     In 

62  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

the  months  following  his  return  to  the  Parsonage, 
we  find  Branwell  solacing  his  weariness  and 
enforced  leisure  with  the  writing  of  Poetry.  To 
this  year,  early  1842,  we  may  assign  three  of 
his  best  Sonnets  :  "On  Landseer's  Painting — 
The  Shepherd's  Chief  Mourner "  ;  "On  the 
Callousness  produced  by  Care  "  ;  and  on  "  Peace- 
ful Death  and  Painful  Life." 

He  was  in  a  condition  of  comparative  loneliness 
at  this  time,  as  all  his  sisters  were  away  from 
home,  Anne  teaching  in  a  family  who  lived  about 
twelve  miles  from  York,  and  Charlotte  and  Emily 
at  Brussels,  in  the  establishment  of  M.  Heger. 

In  September  his  aunt,  Miss  Branwell,  sud- 
denly became  very  ill.  Branwell  was  fortunately 
at  hand  to  do  his  utmost  for  her.  She  suffered 
terribly  and  only  lived  a  fortnight.  Branwell 
was  unremitting  in  his  attentions  to  her,  but 
nothing  could  save  her.  It  was  while  sitting 
under  the  shadow  of  this  impending  bereavement 
that  Branwell  wrote  to  his  friend  Grundy : — "  I 
have  had  a  long  attendance  at  the  death-bed  of 
the  Rev.   Mr.   Weightman,   one    of    my    dearest 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  63 

friends,  and  now  I  am  attending  at  the  death- 
bed of  my  aunt,  who  has  been  for  twenty  years 
as  my  mother.  I  expect  her  to  die  in  a  few 
hours.  As  my  sisters  are  far  from  home,  I  have 
had  much  on  my  mind,  and  these  things  must 
serve  as  an  apology  for  what  was  never  intended 
as  neglect  of  your  friendship  to  us.  I  had  meant 
not  only  to  have  written  to  you,  but  to  the 
Rev.  James  Martineau,  gratefully  and  sincerely 
acknowledging  the  receipt  of  his  most  kindly 
and  truthful  criticism — at  least  in  advice,  though 
too  generous  far  in  praise  ;  but  one  sad  ceremony 
must,  I  fear,  be  gone  through  first."  A  week 
later  he  writes  to  Mr.  Grundy  again  : — "  I  am 
incoherent,  I  fear,  but  I  have  been  waking  two 
nights  witnessing  such  agonizing  suffering  as  I 
would  not  wish  my  worst  enemy  to  endure  :  and 
I  have  now  lost  the  guide  and  director  of  all  the 
happy  days  connected  with  my  childhood.  I 
have  suffered  much  sorrow  since  I  last  saw  you  at 
Miss  Branwell  died  on  the  28th  of  October, 
•  Shorter,  "  The  Brontes  and  Their  Circle,"  p.  115. 

64  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

1842,  while  all  her  nieces  were  away.     She  was 
buried  before  Emily  and  Chariotte  were  able  to 
return.     By  the  terms  of  her  will,  made  as  early 
as  1833,  when  Branwell  was  only  a  boy  of  fifteen, 
she  left  her  little  savings  to  her  nieces,  so  once 
again  we  notice  that  it  was  not  the  sisters  who 
were  financially  sacrificed.     But  even  this  bequest 
has     been     made     an     excuse    for    belabouring 
Branwell,  whose  supposed  depravity  at  the  age  of 
fifteen   has   been    the   reason    assigned    by   Mrs. 
Gaskell  and  Miss  Robinson  for  his  loss  of  benefit. 
Mr.   Leyland  displays  a  quite  laudable  indigna- 
tion on  the  subject.     "  It  is  ",  he  writes,  "  amazing 
that  so  much  ignorance  should  have  been  dis- 
played on  a  subject  so  easily  capable  of  being 
correctly  stated  ;    but  it  is  lamentable  that  this 
ignorance  should  have  led  the  biographers  of  the 
Brontes  by  erroneous  statements,   to  inflict   ad- 
ditional and  unmerited  injury  on  Branwell."* 

But  to  inflict  injury  on  Branwell  has  by  this 
time  become,  as  I  have  already  pointed  out,  a 
positive  obsession  with  some  of  our  Bronte  writers, 
among  whom  Miss  Sinclair  is  noticeably  promi- 

t  "  Leyland,"  XXXIII.,  p.  31-32. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  65 

nent.  All  her  references  to  Branwell  are  made 
in  a  tone  of  almost  heartless  flippancy,  and  with 
a  careless  disregard  for  the  facts  of  the  case  that 
is  surprising  in  a  writer  of  her  distinction.  She 
rivals  Miss  Robinson  in  prejudice,  though  with 
less  excuse,  for  her  predecessor  had  not  access 
to  the  more  recent  material  included  in  Mr. 
Leyland's  volumes,  which  Miss  Sinclair  apparently 
finds  it  convenient  to  ignore,  as,  for  example, 
when  she  remarks  of  this  particular  event,  the 
death  of  Miss  Branwell  and  the  sudden  recall  of 
Emily  and  Charlotte  from  abroad  : — "  Then,  in 
their  first  year  of  Brussels,  their  old  Aunt,  Miss 
Branwell,  died.  .  .  .  Things  were  going  badly 
and  sadly  at  the  Parsonage.  Branwell  was  there 
drinking."*  On  the  contrary,  we  know  now  how 
usefully  and  tenderly  Branwell  was  employed, 
and  there  is  not  the  remotest  shadow  of  evidence 
for  this  cruel  and  uncalled  for  assertion.  "  Mean- 
while ",  writes  Mrs.  Gaskell,  "  they  enjoyed  their 
Christmas  all  together  inexpressibly.  Branwell 
was  with  them  ;  that  was  always  a  pleasure  at 
this  time."    And  so  ended  the  year  1842. 

♦  "  Three  BronWs,"  p.  25. 




And  now,  we  come  to  the  last  and  most  critical 
period   of   Branwell   Bronte's   life.     In   January, 
1843,  immediately  after  the  events  just  detailed, 
he  obtained  another  post,  as  tutor  in  Mr.  Robinson's 
family  at  Thorp  Green,  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
Boroughbridge  and  York,  where  his  sister  Anne 
was  already  installed  as  governess.      For  the  next 
two  and  a  half  years,  till  the  end  of  July,  1845, 
he  retained  this  situation,  obviously  giving  satis- 
faction to  his  employer.     These  years  we  may 
certainly   regard   as   the   happiest   in   Branwell's 
so  far  not  too  fortunate  life,  inasmuch  as,  for  the 
first  time  in  his  experience,  he  was  in  daily  contact 
with  a  woman  of  the  most  engaging  charm  and 
breeding,  the  like  of  whom,  we  may  beheve,  he 
had  never  yet  enjoyed  the  privilege  of  meeting. 
Mrs.  Robinson  was  a  woman  of  the  world,  who, 
without   necessarily  giving   any   thought   to   the 
matter,  could  hardly  fail  to  attract  the  ardent 


Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  67 

admiration   of   an   impressionable,   inexperienced, 
poetic  young  man  of  twenty-five.     She  was  his 
senior  by  about  seventeen  years,  but  judging  from 
the  impression  she  made  on  Branwell,  we  may 
conclude  she  was  equally  attractive  in  person  and 
intellect.     The  comparative  luxury  and  elegance 
of   her   surroundings   lent   her   added  grace   and 
dignity.     Probably  they  were  thrown  much  to- 
gether in  consultation  about  her  son's  education, 
or  in   drawing  lessons,   sketching   parties,   walks 
up  and  down  the  alleys  of  the  large  secluded  garden 
and  the  like,  until  the  radiance  of  her  graciousness 
and  charm  completely  dazzled  the  young  tutor. 
At  first  his  feelings  may  have  been  those  of  a 
young  troubadour  toward  his  queen  of  love  and 
beauty,  a  being  elevated  far  above  his  reach,  to 
whom  it  was  out  of  the  question  that  he  should 
even  aspire.      But  as  the  months  grew  into  years 
and  their  intimacy  increased,  his  feelings  for  the 
lady    of    his    reverence    became    inflamed,    until, 
little  by  httle,  whether  encouraged  by  any  response 
on  her  part  or  not,  he  fell  hopelessly  in  love  with 

68  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

Branwell  Bronte  is  by  no  means  the  first  and 
only  learned  young  clerk  or  poet  who  has  fallen 
in  love  with  a  mistress  far  above  him  in  fortune  and 
position.  The  story  is  as  old  as  the  world.  In 
manners,  at  least,  and  rich  mental  gifts  Branwell 
was  Mrs.  Robinson's  equal ;  knowing  his  own 
gifts  and  culture,  it  was  not  perhaps  such  "  frantic 
folly,"  as  Charlotte  afterwards  called  it,  to  dream 
that  one  day  he  might  win  her  for  himself.  Such 
apparently  unequal  yokings  have  often  occurred, 
and  have  been  justified  by  their  success.  But 
to  fail  in  such  daring  aspiration — that  is  the  danger ; 
for  to  be  repulsed,  to  be  repudiated,  is  humiliation 

Whether  Mrs.  Robinson  had  given  Branwell  the 
right  to  be  her  champion  against  her  husband, 
who,  he  declared,  did  not  treat  her  well,  or  whether 
the  lady's  affection  for  Branwell  was  a  phantasy 
of  his  over-heated  imagination,  does  not  particu- 
larly matter  to  us  now.  What  does  matter  is  the 
deep  love  he  bore  her,  a  love  which,  whether 
returned  or  not,  was  to  prove  the  direct  and  tragic 
cause  of  his  complete  undoing. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  69 

In  the  wholesale  condemnation  to  which  Bran- 
well  Bronte's  mad  passion  for  his  employer's  wife 
has  given  rise,  the  human  element  in  him  has 
scarcely  been  allowed  fair  play.  We  ought, 
before  condemning  him,  to  know  just  how  far  he 
may  have  been  drawn  on  by  the  fancied  appeal 
of  a  woman  who  was  not  particularly  happy 
with  her  husband.  We  ought  also,  before  con 
demning  him,  to  reflect  that  he  came  of  a  wild- 
blooded  Irish  stock,  that  he  was  of  Celtic,  not 
Saxon,  origin,  possessing  all  the  impulsive,  ardent, 
poetic  temperament  of  a  race  which  has  ever 
been  noted  for  its  gallantry  to  the  gentler  sex, 
a  race  that  has  never  been  remarkable  for  the 
phlegmatic  control  of  its  emotions.  Branwell 
undoubtedly  also  possessed  the  weakness  of  dis- 
position, combined  with  passionate  ardour,  which 
is  easily  allured  by  women,  especially  so  cultivated, 
experienced  and  fascinating  a  creature  as  Mrs. 
Robinson  proved  herself  to  be.  She  may,  perhaps 
unconsciously,  have  given  him  sufficient  en- 
couragement to  lead  him  to  suppose  he  had  a  par- 
ticular place  in  her  esteem  :    it  is  certain,  at  any 

70  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

rate,  that  the  fantastically  dreaming  youth 
assumed  that  his  devotion  was  returned.  Little 
by  little  the  passion  grew  in  his  soul  till  his  whole 
being  was  devoured  by  the  thought  of  her,  and 
quite  seriously,  however  foolishly,  he  looked 
forward  to  the  time  when  she  might  be  free,  and 
he  would  be  able  to  ask  her  hand  in  marriage. 
Whether  the  lady  regarded  herself  as  pledged  to 
Branwell  can  never  be  known.  Nor,  in  spite  of 
Miss  Sinclair's  positive  assurance  on  the  subject,* 
has  it  ever  been  divulged  how  Branwell's  attentions 
to  his  wife  were  made  known  to  Mr.  Robinson. 
All  that  we  do  know  is  that  Branwell  had  just 
returned  home  for  the  midsummer  vacation 
when  he  received  a  letter  from  his  employer 
summarily  dismissing  him  from  his  tutorship, 
and  threatening  him  with  the  fullest  exposure 
if  he  dared  to  hold  any  further  communication 
with  the  family  at  Thorp  Green. 

This  sudden  and  unexpected  blow  was  almost 
too  much  for  Branwell's  sanity.     Whatever  was 
true  or  false  in  his  love  story,   the  agony  and 
*   "  The  Three  Brontes,"  p.  30. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  71 

humiliation  of  this  abrupt  dismissal  was  real 
enough.  Such  a  passion  as  he  had  allowed  to 
grow  up  in  his  heart  and  mind  could  not  be  eradi- 
cated or  destroyed  without  tearing  up  the  very 
roots  of  his  being. 

To  his  indignant  family,  however,  it  merely 
appeared  fantastic  or  preposterous ;  Charlotte 
was  shocked  and  angered  beyond  measure,  the 
more  so  as  the  whole  family  were  for  a  brief  period 
the  victims  of  his  uncontrollable  agitation,  almost 
amounting  to  unreason.  For  a  space  of  eleven 
nights,  as  he  himself  afterwards  confided  to  a 
friend,  he  lay  in  "  sleepless  horror  "  until  change  of 
scene  was  imperative,  and  in  the  care  of  John  Brown 
he  went  to  Liverpool,  whence  he  took  boat  for 
the  Welsh  coast. 

The  change  was  immediately  beneficial.  The 
beauty  of  the  scenery  brought  peace  once  more 
to  his  troubled  spirit — witness  his  poem,  "  Pen- 
maenmawr  ",  written  at  this  time.  He  returned 
composed  and  outwardly  calm,  determined  to 
face  his  misery  and  live  it  down  as  best  he  might. 
Hope  still  animated  him  that  possibly  all  was  not 

72  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

lost,  that  some  day  he  might  marry  the  object 
of  his  devotion.  Thus  buoyed  up,  he  continued 
some  work  which,  he  gives  his  friend  Leyland 
to  understand,  he  had  begun  some  years  pre- 
viously, but  to  which  he  had  not  till  now  turned 
his  serious  attention.  During  the  comparative 
leisure  he  had  enjoyed  at  Thorp  Green,  a  situation 
in  which  he  was,  to  use  his  own  expression,  "  so 
much  the  master",  Branwell  had  directed  his 
thoughts  to  prose  literature,  and  had  projected 
and  commenced  a  novel,  of  which  he  had  compiled 
the  first  volume.  Upon  his  return  from  Wales, 
he  took  up  this  task  once  more. 

To  this  subject  of  Branwell's  novel  we  shall 
presently  return.  For  the  moment  we  are  merely 
concerned  with  mentioning  it  as  one  of  the  out- 
standing facts  in  Branwell's  life,  and  to  shew 
that  his  concentration  on  this  piece  of  literary 
composition  goes  far  to  prove  that,  at  this  time 
at  least,  he  was  not  the  confirmed  drunkard  Mrs. 
Gaskell  and  others  have  made  him  out  to  be. 
His  mental  powers  were  indeed  now  at  their 
zenith  :    of  his  brilliance,  both  now  and  to  the 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  73 

last  days  of  his  life,  Mr.  Leyland  insists  that  there 
can  be  no  doubt.  Indeed,  it  was  during  the  few 
months  following  his  return  from  Thorp  Green 
that  he  produced,  both  in  prose  and  verse,  the 
finest  work  of  his  life. 

Things  were  apparently  going  moderately  well 
with  him  until  the  following  spring,  when,  in 
May,  1846,  he  received  the  news  of  the  death  of 
Mr.  Robinson,  his  late  employer.  This  momentous 
incident  raised  his  hopes  to  ecstacy,  only,  however, 
to  dash  them  immediately  to  earth,  for  as  he  was 
about  to  set  out  at  once  with  the  expectation  of 
again  meeting  the  woman  on  the  memory  of  whom 
he  had  been  living  for  the  past  ten  months,  a 
messenger  arrived  bringing  him  the  news  that  he 
could  never  see  her  again,  inasmuch  as  the  terms 
of  Mr.  Robinson's  will  absolutely  precluded  his 
widow's  remarriage,  except  with  loss  of  the  estate. 

Thus,  deprived  of  all  hope,  Branwell's  case  was 
more  desperate  than  before.  In  a  letter  to  a  friend, 
he  writes  :  "  Well,  my  dear  sir,  I  have  got  my 
finishing  stroke  at  last,  and  I  feel  stunned  into 
marble  by  the  blow.    .    .    .    It's  hard  work  for  me, 

74  Patrick  Bramsjell  Bronte 

dear  sir  ;  I  would  bear  it,  but  my  health  is  so  bad 
that  the  body  seems  as  if  it  could  not  bear  the 
mental  shock.  .  .  .  My  appetite  is  lost,  my 
nights  are  dreadful ;  and  having  nothing  to 
do,  makes  me  dwell  on  past  scenes  .  .  .  till  I 
would  be  glad  if  God  would  take  me.  In  the  next 
world  I  could  not  be  worse  than  I  am  in  this."* 

If  his  summary  dismissal  from  Thorp  Green  at 
the  end  of  July,  1845,  had  sent  Branwell  reeling 
to  the  ropes,  this  gave  him  his  knock-out  blow. 
His  health,  which  had  been  long  undermined  by 
frequent  illnesses,  now  gave  way,  and  his  nervous 
system  went  to  pieces.  There  seemed  no  hope 
for  him  anywhere,  and  no  one  to  lend  him  a 
helping  hand.  Something  could  still  have  been 
done  for  him  had  the  personality  of  his  elder 
sister  been  other  than  it  was,  but  her  patience  was 
exhausted,  her  pride  outraged,  and  she  made 
it  clear  on  all  sides,  both  in  the  family  and  out 
of  it,  that  she  took  no  further  interest  in  him. 

Since  the  time  of  Branwell 's  return  from  his 
railway  appointment  it  seems  as  if  his  family  had 
*  "  Leyland,"  II,  p.   147. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  75 

gradually  begun  to  lose  faith  in  his  capacity  to 
achieve  that  brilliant  career  to  which  they,  no 
less  than  he  himself,  were  looking  forward. 
Charlotte,  in  particular,  was  intolerant  of  failure. 
And  though  Branwell's  apparent  success  at  Thorp 
Green  had  once  more  stimulated  her  interest  in 
his  prospects,  his  sudden  dismissal  in  the  summer 
of  1845,  added  to  his  own  temporary  loss  of  self- 
control,  seems  to  have  completely  alienated  her 
sympathy  from  this  formerly  cherished  brother. 
Nothing  is  more  ruthless  than  love  which  has 
turned  to  hate,  and  Charlotte  confesses  in  one  of 
her  letters  to  Ellen  Nussey,  that  she  was  "  a 
hearty  hater."*  She  was  moreover  possessed  of 
a  hard  vein  of  biting  sarcasm  which,  combined  with 
an  explosive  temper  when  crossed,  must  have 
made  her,  for  the  inmates  of  the  Parsonage, 
"  gey  ill  to  live  wi'."  It  may  be  said  that  her 
attitude  towards  Branwell  was  natural  enough, 
that  is,  for  those  whose  standard  is  measured  by 
her  criterion.  She  had  hoped  and  planned  for  her 
brother  all  his  life  through  ;  she  had  been,  we  can 
•  "  Life,"  p.  86. 

76  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

believe,  his  constant  spur  to  action  ;  she  had  seen 
his  marked  abiUty  ;  she  was  conscious  of  his  gifts  ; 
and  now  she  was  suffering  from  the  exasperation, 
the  mortification  of  seeing  those  gifts  and  abili- 
ties, as  she  thought,  wasted,  thrown  away  in  the 
pursuit  of  an  infatuation  which  she  could  only  term 
"frantic  folly".  Her  endurance  and  patience 
were  at  an  end.  She  had  her  own  work,  her  own 
career  to  attend  to,  and  the  care  of  her  father. 
There  was  not  room  in  her  heart  for  both  her  own 
consuming  ambition  and  concentration  on  this 
failure  of  a  brother.  Branwell  must  go.  And 
with  the  final  overthrow  and  extinction,  so  she 
believed,  of  his  prospects,  she  swept  him  out  of 
her  path. 

Searching  Charlotte's  correspondence  at  this 
time  and  during  the  next  three  years  of  Branwell's 
life,  we  glean  not  a  single  word  of  love  or  pity 
for  her  brother  :  nothing  but  ringing  contempt. 
For  his  intervals  of  self-control  and  temperance 
she  gives  him  no  credit,  remarking  sarcastically, 
that  he  is  "  forced  to  abstain."  When  her  friend 
Ellen  Nussey  is  about  to  visit  them,  Charlotte 

Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte  77 

assures  her  that  she  need  not  fear  any  incivility 
from  Branwell,  and  sarcastically  adds,  "  on  the 
contrary,  he  will  be  as  smooth  as  oil."*  Yes, 
assuredly  Charlotte  was  a  good  hater. 

And  yet,  Charlotte  Bronte  was  what  by  all 
recognized  standards  would  be  described  as  a  fine 
character  ;  she  was  brave,  upright,  honourable, 
and  in  the  main,  just.  But  she  possessed  the 
defects  of  her  almost  Roman  temperament  in  a 
marked  degree.  The  honour  of  the  family  name 
and  the  pursuit  of  her  own  personal  ambition 
were  dearer  to  her  than  the  saving  of  her  own 
brother — if  indeed  he  could  be  saved.  She  had 
in  her,  too,  not  merely  the  indifference  of  the 
pagan  to  the  misery  of  the  world's  weakUngs,  but 
also  a  touch  of  that  fanatical  strain  which  formerly 
produced  martyrs  or  great  reformers  ;  of  that 
ascetic  severity  characteristic  of  a  Conrad  or  a 
Calvin.  She  had  much  righteousness  of  vision, 
but  little  tolerance  for  wrongdoers.  The  sinner 
must  be  shewn  his  sin,  reasoned  with  certainly, 
but  if  he  gave  no  visible  promise  of  amendment, 
•  Shorter,  "The  Bronte  Circle,"  p.   125. 

78  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

he  must  be  cut  off  both  from  sympathy  and  inter- 
course.    Her  disposition  had  in  it  something  of 
the  harsh  fierceness  of   that  bitter  north-easter, 
which  made  the  shivering  traveller  hug  his  cloak 
rather  than  discard  it  ;    she  had  nothing  of  the 
sun   in   her    nature,    the    all-loving,    all-forgiving 
sun,    shining   alike   on   the   evil    and   the   good, 
nothing   of   the    tender    gentleness    of   the  rain, 
falling  hke  the  tears  of  God's  pity  alike  on  the 
just  and  unjust.     There  was  no  halting  between 
two    opinions    with    Charlotte ;     everything    was 
either  black  or  white,  right  or  wrong  ;   and  in  her 
denunciation    of    wrong    she   was    pitiless.     Poor 
Branwell  was,  as  we  know,  wrong  in  many  ways. 
We  can  believe  that  she  may  have  reasoned  with 
him  at  first,   but  when  in  spite  of  her  remon- 
strances he  went  again  astray,  when  he  fell,  not 
once  but  many  times,  and  again  and  again,  it 
was  too    much  for  her  patience  ;   she  was  not  one 
of    those   who    could    forgive    her   brother    unto 
seventy    times    seven.      Seven    times   was    more 
than  enough  for  her,  and  if  after  this  he  continued 
in  his  evil  ways,  then  she  felt  justified  in  gathering 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  79 

up  her  garments  and  passing  him  by.  It  is 
related  by  Miss  Robinson,  I  know  not  on  what 
authority — unless  that  of  Miss  Nussey — that  for 
two  years  Charlotte  never  spoke  to  her  brother. 

One  pauses  to  wonder  at  the  temerity  that 
dares  to  judge  and  punish  the  shortcomings  of  a 
sister  or  brother,  whose  case,  but  for  the  accident 
of  birth,  might  have  been  one's  own.  How  easy 
for  those  secure  on  land  to  condemn  the  distracted 
master  of  the  vessel,  assailed  at  once  by  the  winds 
and  waves  of  material  ill-fortune,  weakened  by 
anxiety  and  fever,  bound  it  may  be  by  his  mutinous 
crew  of  wild  passions,  when  he  loses  his  grasp 
of  the  rudder  and  his  ship  drifts  helplessly 
upon  the  rocks  !  I  am  inclined  to  believe  that 
Charlotte's  attitude  was  a  dominating  factor  in 
her  brother's  life.  Hitherto  he  had  not  wholly 
forfeited  her  good  opinion,  but  now  that  she 
deserted  him,  he  felt  himself  like  a  rudderless  ship, 
like  Cowper's  hopeless  "  Castaway". 

To  know  that  he  had  not  merely  lost  the  woman 
he  loved  so  deeply,  and  lost  her  for  ever,  but  that 
with  her,   and  because  of  her,  he  had  lost   the 

80  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

respect  of  his  high-minded  sister,  was  to  feel  that 
he  was  indeed  at  the  end  of  all  things,  and  hence- 
forth he  gave  himself  up  to  despair.  Charlotte's 
scorn  lashed  him  as  with  scorpions,  her  eyes 
darted  lightnings  of  contempt  that  blasted  his 
soul.  He  himself,  in  a  conversation  with  a 
friend,  refers  to  an  occasion  when  he  was  terribly 
cut  up  by  one  of  his  sister's  rebuffs  :  "  One  of  the 
Sunday-school  girls  fell  sick,  and  they  were  afraid 
she  would  not  live.  I  went  to  see  the  poor  little 
thing,"  he  said,  "  sat  with  her  half  an  hour,  and 
read  a  psalm  to  her  and  a  hymn  at  her  request. 
I  felt  very  like  praying  with  her  too,"  he  added, 
his  voice  trembling  with  emotion,  "  but,  you  see, 
I  was  not  good  enough.  ...  I  came  away  with 
a  heavy  heart,  and  went  straight  home,  where 
I  fell  into  melancholy  musings.  I  wanted  some- 
body to  cheer  me.  .  .  .  Charlotte  observed  my 
depression,  and  asked  what  ailed  me.  So  I  told 
her.  She  looked  at  me  with  a  look  I  shall  never 
forget — if  I  live  to  be  a  hundred  years  old.  .  .  . 
It  wounded  me  as  if  someone  had  struck  me  a  blow 
in  the  mouth.     It  involved  ever  so  many  things  in 

Patrick  Bramvell  Bronte  81 

i(.  It  was  a  dubious  look.  It  ran  over  me, 
questioning  and  examining,  as  if  I  had  been  a 
wild  beast.  It  said,  '  Did  my  ears  deceive  me 
or  did  I  hoar  aright  ?  '  And  then  came  the 
painful,  baffled  expression,  which  was  worse  than 
all.     It  said,   '  I  wonder  if  that's  true  ?  '  "♦ 

Charlotte's  inward  knowledge  of  her  own 
lapse,  her  secret  passion  for  Monsieur  Heger,  for 
which  she  scourged  herself  night  and  day,  instead 
of  making  her  more  tender  to  her  brother's  fault, 
possibly  aggravated  her  indignation  :  she  had 
known  what  it  was  to  suffer  the  pangs  of  frustrated 
passion,  but  she  had  burnt  out  the  plague-spot 
in  her  flesh.  Let  him  do  likewise.  Whether  this 
was  her  argument  or  not,  the  fact  remains  that 
after  a  time  she  utterly  repudiated  her  brother, 
and  made  no  further  attempts  to  draw  him  out 
of  the  Slough  of  Despond  into  which  he  had 

Charlotte's  behaviour  to  her  brother  at  this 
time  of  his  greatest  need  is  the  one  fault  in  her 

•  Quoted  in  an  article    by    Mr.     G.     S.     Phillips    in 
"  The  Mirror,"  lor  1872.     Printed  by  Leyland,  II.,  p.  127. 


82  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

otherwise  blameless  life,  which  it  is  difficult  to 
condone.  Branwell  Bronte  was  in  some  respects 
a  wrong-doer,  but  he  was  really  a  very  sick  man. 
For  the  last  two  years  of  his  life  he  was  suffering 
from  extreme  bodily  weakness,  and  great  mental 
distress.  He  was  a  victim  of  neurasthenia,  a 
disease  not  then  understood  or  recognized,  but 
which  is  carefully  treated  in  our  more  enlightened 
day.  With  subjects  in  the  condition  of  Branwell 
Bronte  it  is  above  all  things  vital  never  to  let  them 
lose  their  self-respect,  never  to  let  them  see  that 
you  have  lost  faith  in  their  powers  of  recovery. 
Firmness  and  loving-kindness  will  work  miracles 
in  apparently  hopeless  cases.  A  well-known 
medical  writer.  Dr.  Brown,  who  has  published  a 
book  on  the  subject,  describes  cases  very  similar  to 
Branwell's   sufferings.* 

After  the  "  emotional  shock  "  of  his  dismissal 
from  Thorp  Green  and  Mrs.  Robinson's  later 
repudiation    of    him,     we    may    fairly    conclude 

*"  Suggestion  and  Mental  Analysis,"  by  William 
Brown,  M.A.,  M.D.  (Oxon),  D.Sc,  etc.  (University  of 
London  Press,  Ltd.)  1922. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  83 

he  was  much  more  a  subject  for  a  nursing  home 
than  for  a  penitentiary.  The  critical  atmosphere 
of  the  Parsonage  was  hostile  to  him  ;  no  nursing 
of  nervous  disorders  there,  no  recognition  of  them 
even.  In  the  few  comments  which  Charlotte 
makes  upon  her  brother,  she  always  conveys 
the  impression  that  she  had  not  a  grain  of  sym- 
pathy for  him,  not  the  faintest  understanding 
of  his  case,  nor  any  wish  to  understand  it. 

The  attitude  of  his  father  and  the  other  sisters 
was,  from  all  we  can  gather,  more  forbearing  than 
that  of  Charlotte.  Anne,  who  had  been  with  him 
at  Thorp  Green,  and  who  must  have  known  a 
good  deal  about  the  relations  between  Branwell 
and  Mrs.  Robinson,  refers  somewhat  enigmatically 
to  what  she  had  seen,  and  adds,  very  temperately, 
that  her  brother  "  has  had  much  tribulation  and 
ill-health."  She  also  expresses  the  hope  that 
"  he  will  get  better  and  do  better  in  future." 
Emily  Bronte,  at  the  same  date,  July  30th,  1845, 
wTites  :  "  We  are  all  in  decent  health  .  ,  .  with 
the  exception  of  Branwell,  who,  I  hope,  will  be 
better  and  do  better  hereafter."     These  respective 

84  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

opinions  were  written,  it  will  be  noticed,  almost 
immediately  after  Branwell's  first  breakdown, 
and  with  full  knowledge  of  all  that  had  occurred. 
This  almost  tender  attitude  is  in  sharp  contrast 
with  Charlotte's  resentful  harshness,  and,  as 
regards  Emily  Bronte,  is  of  the  most  momentous 
importance,  as  I  hope  presently  to  show.  Emily 
is  supposed  to  have  been  his  favourite  sister, 
though  all  his  life  he  had  been  dominated  by  the 
strong  nature  of  Charlotte.  It  was  Emily  who 
now  took  him  to  her  heart,  and  who  hung  over  him 
through  the  remaining  three  years  of  his  broken 
life  with  all  the  tenderness  of  a  mother. 

In  August  of  this  year,  1846,  Charlotte  went 
with  her  father  to  Manchester,  where  he  was  oper- 
ated on  for  cataract.  Branwell  shared  his  sisters' 
anxiety  as  to  the  result  of  the  operation,  as  we 
know  from  a  letter  to  Mr.  Grundy,  in  which  he 
says  :  "  My  father,  too,  is  quite  blind,  and  from 
such  causes  literary  pursuits  have  become  matters 
I  have  no  heart  to  wield." 

Emily  and  Anne  remained  at  the  Parsonage 
with  Branwell  during  the  month  of  Charlotte's 







Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  85 

absence,  and  they  apparently  got  on  with  much 
comfort  together.  It  was  probably  at  this  time 
that  Mr.  Grundy  paid  a  last  visit  to  Haworth 
Parsonage,  and  met  Emily.  To  this  important 
visit  I  shall  presently  have  occasion  to  refer.  By 
the  help  of  his  old  friend,  Mr.  Grundy,  Branwell 
still  hoped  to  receive  some  post  in  connection 
with  the  Leeds  railway,  but  his  application  met 
with  no  success.  Continual  failure  in  every 
direction  was  very  depressing  to  his  spirits,  already 
in  a  drooping  condition.  Even  had  he  been  suc- 
cessful, it  is  doubtful  if  his  health,  at  this  time 
particularly  wretched,  would  have  permitted  him 
to  undertake  serious  daily  duties.  But,  while  he 
continued  to  look  out  for  employment,  he  occupied 
himself  in  writing  poetry,  though  he  confesses  to 
his  correspondents,  Mr.  Grundy  and  Mr.  Leyland, 
that  he  feels  too  physically  prostrate  to  attempt 
any  big  hterary  undertaking  in  prose. 

We  can  hardly  accept  Charlotte's  statement 
that  her  brother  was  totally  unaware  of  his  sisters' 
activities  at  this  time,  as,  when,  on  some  occasion 
of  Charlotte's  having  written  to  a  publisher  and 

86  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

received  no  reply,  Mrs.  Gaskell  mentions  that 
"  she  consulted  her  brother  as  to  what  could  be 
the  reason  for  the  prolonged  silence.  He  at  once 
set  it  down  to  her  not  having  enclosed  a  postage 
stamp  in  her  letter.  She  accordingly  wrote 
again,  to  repair  her  former  omission  and  apologize 
for  it."*  The  discrepancy  suggests  that  Char- 
lotte's memory  was  not  quite  trustworthy,  as 
might  easily  be  the  case  after  the  lapse  of  years. 

Branwell's  health  now  rapidly  declined,  although 
Charlotte  fiercely  and  persistently  refused  to  ack- 
nowledge the  truth.  She  sneered  at  his  pro- 
fessions of  weakness,  though,  from  the  accounts 
that  have  come  down  to  us,  it  is  obvious  that  he 
was  unfit  for  any  employment  requiring  physical 
vigour.  In  every  reference  to  his  illnesses  she 
attributes  them  to  nothing  but  his  own  fault. 
She  could  not  or  would  not  see  that  the  man's 
spirit  had  sustained  a  mortal  blow ;  that  he 
desperately  needed  cheering,  that  he  was  abandoned 
and  terribly  lonely,  that  for  some  reason  or  other 
he  was  physically  wasting  away ;  that  he  had 
*  "  Life,"  p.  222-23. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  87 

neither  the  mental  nor  physical  strength  to  fight 
further,  and  was  in  no  condition  to  stand  up  against 
the  raking  fire  of  her  illimitable  scorn  ;  that  he 
was  in  fact  dying,  dying  on  his  feet,  dying  from 
consumption  brought  on  by  self-neglect,  despair 
and  a  broken  heart. 

In  every  biography  of  his  sisters  we  hear  of 
Branwell's  drinking  habits.  It  is  undeniable 
that  he  was  fond  of  conviviality,  which  at  times — 
but  only  at  times — ran  to  excess.  Nothing  is 
gained  by  any  attempt  to  exonerate  him  from  this 
deplorable  and  unfortunate  weakness.  His  ances- 
try and  careless  upbringing  were  predisposing 
influences,  and  the  habits  of  his  contemporaries 
offered  no  example  of  restraint.  In  the  generation 
immediately  preceding  his  own,  heavy  drinking 
had  been  the  recognized  accomplishment  of  a 
gentleman,  a  wit,  or  a  man  about  town.  The 
Elizabethans  had  set  the  fashion  ;  the  frequenters 
of  the  Coffee  Houses  had  followed  it  ;  even  the 
reputable  Addison  is  said  to  have  tippled,  and 
certainly  Steele,  Fox,  Goldsmith,  Sheridan,  Burns 
and   Byron   were   all   notoriously   hard   drinkers. 

88  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

Charles  Lamb  was  no  exception,  and  frequently 
cursed  his  wretched  drinking  habits,  which, 
on  his  own  admission,  contributed  to  his  sister's 
mental  disturbance.  But  Branwell  Bronte  was 
born  in  an  age  when  the  first  recoil  was  beginning 
to  be  felt  against  these  wild,  carousing  habits. 
To  frequent  an  inn  except  as  a  traveller  began  to 
be  taken  as  a  sign  of  depravity,  and  it  was  the 
disgrace  attached  by  Charlotte  to  her  brother's 
evening  visits  to  the  "  Black  Bull  "  in  the  village 
that  made  her  so  bitter  towards  him. 

Let  it  then  be  admitted  at  once,  freely  and  with- 
out argument,  that  Branwell  Bronte  often  drank 
heavily,  and  perhaps  at  times  took  opium.  What 
I  am  concerned  to  dispute  is  that  he  was  never 
the  wholly  degraded  or  habitual  drunkard  that  his 
detractors  would  make  him  out.  Here  we  have 
the  evidence  of  Mr.  Leyland  and  other  reputable 
people  who  knew  him  personally.  He  had,  says 
Mr.  Leyland,  long  periods  of  temperance.  At 
its  worst,  his  drinking  was  more  the  indulgence  of 
a  convivial  habit  than  anything  else.  It  was 
apparently   his   only   vice,  and,  deplorable   as   it 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  89 

might  be,  it  bore  the  character  of  weakness  rather 
than  criminal  misdemeanour. 

In  defence  of  Branwell  it  may  be  pleaded 
that  all  through  his  life  he  had  few  chances  such 
as  come  to  others.  At  the  very  first,  as  we  have 
seen,  when,  buoyant  with  hope  and  inspiration, 
he  set  out  to  do  great  things  in  London,  his 
prospects  were  immediately  blighted,  chiefly  by 
lack  of  funds  to  pursue  an  art  student's  career. 
He  had  no  money  spent  on  him  except  during 
the  few  months  of  art  tuition  at  Bradford.  The 
only  fund  that  might  have  provided  him  with  a 
university  education  or  other  start  in  life  was 
raided  by  Charlotte  when  she  persuaded  her 
aunt  to  finance  her  education  and  Emily's  at 
the  Heger's  Brussels  pensionnat. 

Miss  Sinclair  is  wide  of  the  mark  when  she 
talks  about  the  sisters  going  out  as  governesses 
in  order  that  Branwell  might  pursue  a  glorious 
career.  When  Charlotte  went  to  Roe  Head  as 
governess  Emily  went  with  her  as  a  pupil,  and 
was  presently  followed  by  Anne,  and  it  was  in 
all  probability  to  help  to  educate  her  sisters,  not 

90  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

Branwell,  that  she  volunteered  her  services  to 
Miss  Wooler.  Nothing  was  spent  on  Branwell 
other  than  the  week's  expenses  in  London,  and 
some  painting  lessons  at  Bradford  for  which  his 
aunt  probably  paid.  When  Emily  went  for  six 
months  as  a  teacher  in  a  school  at  Halifax,  Bran- 
well was  already  getting  commissions  for  por- 
traits at  Bradford,  and  keeping  himself.  When 
after  1839  Anne  and  Charlotte  took  further  short 
spells  of  teaching,  Branwell  was  tutoring  at  Mr. 
Postlethwaite's,  and  immediately  after  that  he  went 
for  two  years  as  railway  clerk  at  Sowerby  Bridge 
and  Luddenden  Foot.  This  disposes  of  the  sug- 
gestion that  the  sisters  were  out  earning  a  hard 
living  as  governesses  while  he  was  doing  nothing. 
The  whole  suggestion  is  not  merely  ridiculous, 
but  malicious.  "  Our  debts  will  be  paid  off," 
writes  Emily  in  her  secret  letter  to  Anne,  dated 
July,  1841.  These  debts  Miss  Sinclair  has  the 
hardihood,  in  face  of  known  facts,  to  suggest 
were  "  probably  Branwell's."*  They  had  nothing 
to  do  with  Branwell.  He  was  at  this  time  earning 
*  "  The  Three  Brontes,"  p.  23. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  91 

his  own  living  on  the  railway.  What  Emily  is 
referring  to,  if  Miss  Sinclair  would  take  the  trouble 
to  read  the  context,  are  those  they  would  have 
incurred  in  founding  that  "  pleasant  and  flourish- 
ing seminary "  of  their  dreams,  which  Emily 
has  just  mentioned  in  the  preceding  sentence. 
But,  as  Miss  Sinclair  accepts  all  her  predecessors' 
attitude  towards  Branwell,  any  stick  is  good 
enough  to  aim  a  blow,  whether  merited  or  not, 
on  the  old  woman's  principle  that  "  if  he  didn't 
deserve  that  particular  whipping  he  soon  would 

There  was  one  occasion  on  which  they  had  to 
pay  some  of  their  brother's  debts,  in  the  winter 
of  1846,  but  Branwell  was  no  idle  acceptor  of 
gifts,  for,  in  a  letter  to  Mr.  Leyland,  he  expresses 

the  wish  that  Mr.  would  send  him  his  bill, 

"  and  the  moment  that  I  receive  my  outlaid  cash, 
or  any  sum  that  falls  into  my  hands,  I  shall 
settle  it."  This  was  probably  some  tailor's  bill 
which  he  had  incurred  while  he  was  at  the  Robin- 
sons', with  the  full  expectation  of  meeting  it 
out  of  his  future  salary,  and  which,  owing  to  his 

92  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

unexpected  dismissal,  he  was  obviously  unable 
to  meet.  It  was  unfortunate,  of  course.  The 
Sheriff's  officer  arrived;  Charlotte  bitterly  re- 
sented the  disgrace,  and  promptly  wrote  off  and 
told  her  friend  Ellen  Nussey  all  about  it. 

In  all  her  letters  to  this  friend,  when  Charlotte 
has  nothing  in  particular  to  relate,  she  finds  occa- 
sion to  say  something  disagreeable  about  her 
brother.  Do  we  impart  the  failings  and  weak- 
nesses of  those  we  love  even  to  the  nearest  and 
dearest  of  our  friends  ?  But  Charlotte  went  even 
farther  :  she  told  her  old  school-mistress,  Miss 
Wooler,  about  her  brother's  failings.  For  this 
there  can  have  been  no  necessity.  Miss  Wooler 
was  not  hkely  to  visit  Haworth,  as  Ellen  Nussey 
was,  and  the  only  deduction  we  can  draw  is  that 
Charlotte  was  unable  to  write  a  letter  without 
detailing  to  her  correspondents  her  own  sufferings 
and  all  she  had  to  put  up  with.  It  was  assuredly 
Charlotte  who  was  the  egoist  of  the  family. 
Had  she  loved  Branwell  she  would  have  suffered 
more  silently  for  his  sake,  instead  of  blazoning 
his  unhappy  weakness  to  every  intimate  corres- 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  93 

pondent.  Miss  Nussey  had  known  Branwell  from 
a  boy,  and  as  late  as  the  winter  of  1842-3,  mes- 
sages were  being  exchanged  between  them  through 
the  medium  of  Charlotte's  letters.  After  1845, 
however,  Charlotte  evidently  decided  that  Ellen's 
interest  in  her  brother  must  be  checked,  and,  by 
her  continual  report  of  his  delinquencies,  she 
effectually  wrecked  his  image  in  her  friend's 
mind.  Long  before  this,  however,  it  had  become 
evident,  from  Branwell's  manner,  that  he  had 
become  completely  absorbed  in  an  entirely  different 

The  following  letter  to  his  friend  Leyland, 
written  some  time  about  the  close  of  the  year 
1846,  or,  more  probably,  in  the  opening  of  1847, 
gives  such  a  vivid  picture  of  Branwell's  mental 
and  physical  condition  that  I  transcribe  it  in 

"  My  DEAR  Sir, 

I  am  going  to  write  a  scrawl,  for  the  querulous 
egotism  of  which  I  must  entreat  your  mercy  ; 
but,  when  I  look  upon    my  past,    pre.sent    and 

94  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

future,  and  then  into  my  own  self,  I  find  much, 
however  unpleasant,  that  yearns  for  utterance. 

This  last  week  an  honest  and  kindly  friend 
has  warned  me  that  concealed  hopes  about  one 
lady  should  be  given  up,  let  the  effort  to  do  so 

cost  what  it  may.     He  is  the  ,  and  was 

commanded    by    ,    M.P.    for    ,    to 

return  me,  unopened,  a  letter  which  I  addressed 

to and  which  the  lady  was  not  permitted 

to  see.  She,  too,  surrounded  by  powerful  per- 
sons who  hate  me  like  Hell,  has  sunk  into  re- 
ligious melancholy,  believes  that  her  weight  of 
sorrow  is  God's  punishment,  and  hopelessly 
resigns  herself  to  her  doom.  God  only  knows 
what  it  does  cost  and  will,  hereafter,  cost  me, 
to  tear  from  my  heart  and  remembrance  the 
thousand  recollections  that  rush  upon  me  at  the 
thought  of  four  years  gone  by.  Like  ideas  of 
sunlight  to  a  man  who  has  lost  his  sight,  they 
must  be  bright  phantoms  not  to  be  realized  again. 
I  had  reason  to  hope  that  ere  very  long  I  should 
be  the  husband  of  a  lady  whom  I  loved  best  in 
the  world,  and  with  whom,  in  more  than  com- 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  95 

petence,  I  might  live  at  leisure  to  try  to  make 
myself  a  name  in  the  world  of  posterity,  without 
being  pestered  by  the  small  but  countless  bother- 
ments,  which,  like  mosquitoes,  sting  us  in  the 
world  of  workday  toil.  That  hope  and  herself 
are  gone — she  to  wither  into  patiently  pining 
decline,  it  to  make  room  for  drudgery,  falling 
on  one  now  ill-fitted  to  bear  it.  That  ill-fitted- 
ness  rises  from  causes  which  I  find  myself  able 
partially  to  overcome,  had  I  bodily  strength ; 
but,  with  the  want  of  that,  and  with  the  presence 
of  daily  lacerated  nerves,  the  task  is  not  easy. 
I  have  been  in  truth  too  much  petted  through 
life,  and,  in  my  last  situation,  I  was  so  much 
master,  and  gave  myself  so  much  up  to  enjoy- 
ment, that  now,  when  the  cloud  of  ill-health  and 
adversity  has  come  upon  me,  it  will  be  a  dis- 
heartening job  to  work  myself  up  again,  through 
a  new  life's  battle,  from  the  position  of  five  years 
ago,  to  that  from  which  I  have  been  compelled 
to  retreat  with  heavy  loss  and  no  gain.  My  army 
stands  now  where  it  did  theft,  but  mourning 
the  slaughter  of  Youth,  Health,  Hope  and  both 
mental  and  physical  elasticity. 

96  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

The  last  two  losses  are,  indeed,  important  to 
one  who  once  built  his  hopes  of  rising  in  the 
world  on  the  possession  of  them.  Noble  writings, 
works  of  art,  music  or  poetry,  now,  instead  of 
rousing  my  imagination,  cause  a  whirlwind  of 
blighting  sorrow  that  sweeps  over  my  mind  with 
unspeakable  dreariness  ;  and,  if  I  sit  down  and 
try  to  WTite,  all  ideas  that  used  to  come  clothed 
in  sunlight  now  press  round  me  in  funereal 
black  ;  for  really  every  pleasurable  excitement 
that  I  used  to  know  has  changed  to  insipidity 
or  pain. 

I  shall  never  be  able  to  realize  the  too  sanguine 

hopes   of   my   friends,   for  at  twenty-nine    I    am 

a  thoroughly  old  man,  mentally,  and  bodily,  far 

more  indeed  than  I  am  willing  to  express.     God 

knows  I  do  not  scribble  like  a  poetaster  when  I 

quote  Byron's  terribly  truthful  words  : 

No  more — no  more — oh  !  never  more  on  me 
The  freshness  of  the  heart  shall  fall  like  dew, 
Which,  out  of  all  the  lovely  things  we  see, 
Extracts  emotions  beautiful  and  new  ! 

I  used  to  think  that  if  I  could  have,  for  a  week, 
the  free  range  of  the  British  Museum — the  library 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  97 

included — I  could  feel  as  though  I  were  placed 
for  seven  days  in  Paradise ;  but  now,  really, 
dear  sir,  my  eyes  would  rest  upon  the  Elgin 
marbles,  the  Egyptian  saloon,  and  the  most 
treasured  columns,  like  the  eyes  of  a  dead  cod- 
fish. My  rude,  rough  acquaintances  here  ascribe 
my  unhappiness  solely  to  causes  produced  by  my 
sometimes  irregular  life,  because  they  have  known 
no  other  pains  than  those  resulting  from  excess 
or  want  of  ready  cash.  They  do  not  know  that 
I  would  sooner  want  a  shirt  than  want  a  springy 
mind,  and  that  my  total  want  of  happiness,  were 
I  to  step  into  York  Minster  now,  would  be  far, 
far  worse  than  their  want  of  a  hundred  pounds 
when  they  might  happen  to  need  it ;  and  that, 
if  a  dozen  glasses  or  a  bottle  of  wine  drives  off 
their  cares,  such  cures  only  make  me  outwardly 
passable  in  company,  but  never  drive  off  mine. 
I  know  only  that  it  is  time  for  me  to  be  some- 
thing, when  I  am  nothing,  that  my  father  cannot 
have  long  to  hve,  and  that,  when  he  dies,  my 
evening,  which  is  already  twilight,  will  become 
night  ;    that  I  shall  then  have  a  constitution  still 

98  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

so  strong  that  it  will  keep  me  years  in  torture 
and  despair,  when  I  should  every  hour  pray  that 
I  might  die. 

I  know  that  I  am  avoiding,  while  I  write,  one 

greatest  cause  of  my  utter  despair  ;  but,  by  G , 

sir,  it  is  nearly  too  bitter  for  me  to  allude  to  it. 
(Here  follow  a  number  of  references  to  the  sub- 
ject, which  are  omitted  by  Mr.  Leyland.)  To 
no  one  living  have  I  said  what  I  now  say  to  you, 
and  I  should  not  bother  yourself  with  my  inco- 
herent account  did  I  not  believe  that  you  would 
be  able  to  understand  something  of  what  was 
meant — though  not  all,  sir ;  for  he  who  is  with- 
out hope,  and  knows  that  his  clock  is  at  twelve 
at  night,  cannot  communicate  his  feehngs  to  one 
who  finds  his  at  twelve  at  noon."* 

The  importance  of  this  letter  is  great,  because 
it  is  first-hand  evidence,  and  because  it  shows  us 
his  utterly  listless,  hopeless  and  dejected  con- 
dition, with  no  interest  in  any  work  of  art  or 
literature,  his  own  or  others',  outside  his  nar- 
rowly confined  horizon  of  vision.  He  was  the 
♦  "  Leyland,"  II.,  p.   177. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  99 

victim  of  one  idea — his  frustrated  passion  for 
Mrs.  Robinson.  It  also  shows,  without  the  pos- 
sibility of  doubt,  the  shockingly  weak  condition 
of  health  and  spirits  into  which  he  had  fallen. 
He  was  surely  a  subject  for  pity  rather  than  for 
the  scorn  and  derision  with  which  his  elder  sister 
regarded  him. 

The  winter  of  1846-7  was  a  particularly  trying 
one,  and  both  Branwell  and  Mr.  Bronte  had 
influenza  and  bronchial  trouble.  In  the  following 
May,  Charlotte  invited  her  friend  Miss  Nussey 
to  visit  them,  a  thing  she  would  never  have  done 
had  BranweU's  conduct  been  all  that  his  bio- 
graphers have  tried  to  make  out.  He  was 
depressed,  but  still  trying  to  employ  his  time 
with  writing,  chiefly  poetry,  a  poem  "  Morley 
Hall  "  in  particular,  for  his  friend  Leyland. 
This  may  have  been  a  commission,  given  him  in 
kindness  partly  to  distract  his  mind.  He  never 
ceased  to  prosecute  enquiries  as  to  "  situations 
suitable  to  me,  whereby  I  could  have  a  voyage 
abroad."  These,  however,  came  to  nothing, 
though    a    voyage     south    would    greatly    have 

100  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

benefited  both  mind  and  body.  During  this 
year — 1847 — which  proved  a  terrible  one  for  his 
faihng  health,  he  wrote  another  poem,  significantly 
called  "  The  End  of  All."  One  more  poem, 
however,  was  attempted  after  this,  but  remained 
unfinished.     Its  title  was  "  Percy  Hall." 

It  is  obvious  that,  to  the  very  last,  Branwell 
retained  his  gifts  of  poetic  expression  and  a  graphic 
power  of  personal  narration  which,  his  hearers 
relate,  was  nothing  short  of  marvellous.  Mr. 
Lejdand  affirms  that  "  he  himself  could  endorse  " 
all  that  Mr.  Phillips  says  about  Branwell's  bril- 
liancy of  intellect  at  this  time.  Mr.  Phillips 
admits  he  was  much  altered  in  appearance  during 
the  latter  part  of  their  acquaintance,  but  goes 
on  to  say,  "  if  he  had  altered  in  the  same  direction 
mentally,  as  his  biographer  says  he  had,  then  he 
must  have  been  a  man  of  immense  and  brilhant 
intellect.  For,  I  have  rarely  heard  more  eloquent 
and  thoughtful  discourse,  flashing  so  brightly 
with  random  jewels  of  wit,  and  made  sunny  and 
musical  with  poetry,  than  that  which  flowed 
from  his  lips  during  the  evenings  I  passed  with 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  10 1 

him  at  the  '  Black  Bull,'  in  the  village  of  Haworth. 
His  figure  was  very  slight,  and  he  had,  like  his 
sister  Charlotte,  a  superb  forehead.  But,  even 
when  pretty  deep  in  his  cups,  he  had  not  the  slight- 
est appearance  of  the  sot  that  Mrs.  Gaskell  says 
he  was.  '  His  great  tawny  mane,'  meaning  thereby 
the  hair  of  his  head,  was,  it  is  true,  somewhat 
dishevelled  ;  but,  apart  from  this,  he  gave  no  sign 
of  intoxication.  His  eye  was  as  bright  and  his 
features  were  as  animated  as  they  very  well 
could  be  ;  and,  moreover,  his  whole  manner  gave 
indication  of  intense  enjoyment." 

The  spring  and  summer  of  1848  were  wild,  wet 
and  unfavourable  to  one  like  Branwell,  suffering 
from  chronic  bronchitis,  and  "  marasmus,"  a  con- 
sumptive wasting-away,  arising  from  hereditary 
tendency,  chill,  and  neglect  of  food,  as  well  as 
from  mental  agony  and  the  effects  of  irregular 
life.  His  family  do  not  seem  to  have  observed 
him  very  closely.  On  the  28th  of  July,  Charlotte 
writes  :  "  His  constitution  seems  much  shattered. 
Papa  and  sometimes  all  of  us  have  sad  nights 
with  him.     He  sleeps  most  of  the  day,  and  conse- 

102  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

quently  will  lie   awake   at   night.     But  has  not 
every  house  its  trial  ?  " 

This  is  Charlotte's  only  comment  on  the  desper- 
ate condition  of  her  dying  brother.  He  did  not 
trouble  them  many  weeks  longer  :  on  the  morning 
of  Sunday,  the  24th  of  September,  he  died  with 
tragic  suddenness,  after  having  been  confined  to 
bed  only  for  a  single  day. 

Charlotte,  writing  to  a  friend  on  the  9th  of 
October,  gives  a  short  account  of  his  last  hours, 
and  goes  on  to  say  :  "  A  deep  conviction  that  he 
rests  at  last,  rests  well,  after  his  brief,  erring, 
suffering,  feverish  life,  fills  and  quiets  my  mind 
now.  The  final  separation,  the  spectacle  of  his 
pale  corpse  gave  me  more  acute  bitter  pain  than 
I  could  have  imagined.  Till  the  last  hour  comes, 
we  never  know  how  much  we  can  forgive,  pity, 
regret  a  near  relative.  All  his  vices  were  and  are 
nothing  now.     We  remember  only  his  woes." 

How  much  more  helpful  to  Branwell,  could  his 
sister  Charlotte  have  pitied  and  forgiven  him  a 
httle  earlier  in  his  lifetime.  It  was  rather  late 
in  the  day  to  remember  his  woes  when  he  was 


We  have  heard  the  brief  chronicle  of  the  promise 
of  genius  cramped  by  ill-health,  crushed  by 
misfortune,  yet  constantly  putting  forth  buds 
of  rare  beauty  and  vitality.  Is  it  possible  that 
any  valuable  fruit  was  produced,  unknown  to 
contemporaries,  overlooked  or  neglected  by  bio- 
graphers, or  wrongly  attributed  to  another  as  a 
miracle  ? 

It  is  now  a  matter  of  common  knowledge  to 
Bronte  students  that  Branwell  did  claim  to  have 
written  a  work  which,  though  published  anony- 
mously in  his  lifetime,  only  some  eight  month 
in  fact  before  his  untimely  death,  made  no  stir 
in  the  literary  world  either  then  or  for  many  years 
after.  This  work  was  the  novel,  "  Wuthering 
Heights,"  which  has  long  been  assigned  to  his 
sister  Emily,  chiefly,  if  not  entirely,  upon  the 
evidence    of    Charlotte    Bronte's    "  Preface    and 

Biographical  Memoir  of  her  Sisters,"  issued  with 


104  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

the  edition  of  1850.  Charlotte  made  her  statement, 
without  doubt,  in  absolute  good  faith,  completely 
beheving  that  what  she  affirmed  was  the  truth 
of  the  matter.  There  can  be  no  doubt  of  this. 
She  had  probably  never  heard  a  word  about  any 
claim  entered  by  her  brother.  A  claim  was  made 
privately  in  a  declaration  to  his  friend,  Mr.  Grundy, 
and  subsequently  pubhshed  by  that  gentleman 
in  a  volume  of  personal  "  Recollections  "  issued 
in  the  year  1879,  long  after  Branwell,  Emily  and 
Charlotte  were  dead,  so  that  there  was  no  one  left 
who  could  either  confirm  or  refute  it. 

The  matter  dates  from  a  visit  of  Mr.  Grundy's 
to  Haworth  Parsonage,  probably  in  the  summer  of 
1846,  when  Charlotte  was  at  Manchester  with  her 
father,  and  Branwell,  Emily  and  Anne  were  left 
at  home  together.  Mr.  Grundy  writes  as  follows  : 
"  One  very  important  statement  which  he  (Bran- 
well) made  to  me  throws  some  light  upon  a  question 
which  I  observe  has  long  vexed  the  critics,  that  is, 
the  authorship  of  '  Wuthering  Heights.'  .  .  . 
It  is  well-nigh  incredulous  that  a  book  so  mar- 
vellous in  its  strength,  and  in  the  dissection  of 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  105 

the  most  morbid  passions  of  diseased  minds, 
could  have  been  written  by  a  young  girl  like  Emily, 
Bronte,  who  never  saw  much  of  the  world,  or  knew 
much  of  mankind,  and  whose  studies  of  life  and 
character,  if  they  are  her  own,  must  have  been 
chiefly  evolved  from  her  own  imagination.  Patrick 
Bronte  declared  to  me,  and  what  his  sister  said 
bore  out  the  assertion,  that  he  wrote  a  great  portion 
of  '  Wuthering  Heights '  himself.  Indeed,  it 
is  impossible  for  me  to  read  that  story  without 
meeting  with  many  passages  which  I  feel  certain 
must  have  come  from  his  pen.  The  weird  fancies 
of  diseased  genius  with  which  he  used  to  entertain 
me  in  our  long  talks  at  Luddenden  Foot  re- 
appear in  the  pages  of  the  novel,  and  I  am  inclined 
to  believe  that  the  very  plot  was  his  invention 
rather  than  his  sister's."* 

Now,  this  claim  of  Branwell's,  made,  be  it  ob- 
served, when  the  novel  was  still  going  the  round 
of  the  publishers,  and,  so  far,  without  success, 
indeed    often    with    nothing    better    than     "  an 

♦  Francis    H.    Grundy,     "  Pictures    of     the    Past," 
(Griffith  &  Farran,)  1879,  p.  80. 

106  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

ignominious  and  abrupt  dismissal,"  with  not  a 
shadow  of  intimation  of  its  future  celebrity  or 
of  the  genius  that  would  be  ascribed  to  its  author ; 
this  in  no  way  braggart  claim,  has  been  made 
"  the  whole  head  and  front  of  his  offending." 
Had  he  never  made  it,  his  shade  would  assuredly 
have  been  allowed  to  rest  in  obscurity  and  medi- 
ocrity. Having  made  it,  however,  and  the  claim 
having  been  subsequently  published  by  Mr. 
Grundy,  it  could  not  be  overlooked  by  those  who 
had  made  themselves  the  passionate  partisans 
of  Emily's  authorship.  The  hunt  was  now  up, 
and  the  pursuers  were  determined  to  be  satisfied 
with  nothing  short  of  the  complete  extirpation 
of  Branwell  Bronte.  His  character  must  be  stained 
with  the  darkest  colours ;  nothing  bad  enough 
could  be  invented  about  him  ;  he  was  to  be  ex- 
posed as  a  bragging  liar,  a  drunkard,  an  opium- 
eater  ;  in  short,  a  man  so  degraded,  so  lost  to  every 
sense  of  decent  feeling  that  no  reliance  could  be 
placed  on  any  declaration  of  his,  least  of  all  upon  the 
"  preposterous  statement,"  as  Mr.  Clement  Shorter 
calls  it,  "  that  he  wrote  '  Wuthering  Heights.'  " 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  107 

Yet,  if  Branwell  Bronte  was  such  a  wretched 
creature  as  the  biographers  make  out,  why  trouble 
about  him  at  all  ?  If  his  claim  is  actually  so 
"  preposterous,"  if  his  literary  capacity  is  so 
completely  negligible,  why  should  the  discussion 
of  Branwell  occupy  so  important  a  place  in  all 
the  Bronte  literature  ?  What,  in  short,  is  the 
cause  of  all  this  feverish  desire  to  "  suppress  " 
him  running  through  all  the  pages  of  Miss  Mary  F. 
Robinson's  monograph  on  Emily  Bronte ;  through 
much  of  Miss  May  Sinclair's  book  on  the  same  sub- 
ject ;  and  through  Mr.  Clement  Shorter's  work 
on  the  "  Brontes  and  their  Circle  "  ?  Can  it  be 
due  to  an  uneasy  feeling  in  their  minds  that 
Branwell's  declaration  of  authorship  may  not 
be  easily  got  rid  of  ?  Can  it  be  the  dread  lest 
Emily  Bronte's  reputation  as  the  author  of  this 
great  novel  is  trembling  in  the  balance  ?  And  is 
it  then  in  order  to  safeguard  the  interests  of  Emily 
that  one  and  all  they  never  cease,  on  any  occasion 
open  to  them,  to  dig  up  and  insult  her  brother's 
ethical  and  literary  remains  ? 

If  they  are  so  sure  about  Emily's  reputation. 

108  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

if  it  is  really  secure  and  removed  beyond  all  dispute, 
why  all  this  vituperation  of  poor  Branwell  ? 
Why  not  let  him  rest  in  well-deserved  obscurity, 
why  not  inscribe  "  Pobre  "  over  his  tombstone 
and  let  him  be  ?  Is  it  that,  having  committed 
themselves  irrevocably  to  the  championship  of 
Emily,  they  are  ashamed  to  draw  back  ? 

Even  if  she  did  not  write  "  Wuthering  Heights," 
they  have  nothing  to  fear :  she  has  renown  enough 
without  it.  Let  us  therefore  try  to  sift  the 
evidence,  openly  and  without  prejudice,  in  the  fair 
court  of  PubHc  Opinion,  not  impatiently  pre- 
judging the  case  and  anticipating  the  verdict 
along  with  the  impassioned  admirers  of  Emily 
Bronte.  Because  we  love  Emily — and  the  present 
writer  will  yield  to  no  one  in  admiration  of  her— 
because  of  that  very  admiration  and  a  certain 
prepossession  in  her  favour,  we  have  to  be  the  more 
careful  to  avoid  the  bias  that  would  make  our 
verdict  accord  with  our  secret  wishes. 

Whether  Emily  Bronte  wrote  "  Wuthering 
Heights  "  or  not,  she  would  still  remain  what 
she  is,   one  of  the  most  remarkable  and  lofty- 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  109 

minded  women  the  world  has  ever  known.  Her 
"  Poems  "  would  still  entitle  her  to  fame,  though 
perhaps  not  to  the  extended  reputation  she  has 
received  as  a  novelist. 

Leaving  these  generalities,  let  us  marshal  such 
facts  as  are  available  for  the  fair  examination  of 
the  question.  This  examination  involves  four 
particular  enquiries.  What  further  evidence  is 
there,  apart  from  Mr.  Grundy's  statement,  of 
Branwell's  claim  to  and  qualification  for  the 
authorship  ?  How  did  it  come  to  pass  that  Char- 
lotte knew  nothing  about  her  brother's  claim  ? 
On  what  grounds  did  she  so  confidently  found  her 
assertion  of  Emily's  authorship  ?  What  were 
the  evidences  of  Emily's  authorship,  and  her  quali- 
fications for  the  work  ? 

It  will  be  convenient  to  consider  these  points 
in  a  reverse  order,  first  laying  before  the  reader 
all  that  is  certain  and  accepted  as  regards  Emily's 
connection  with  it,  including  an  estimate  of  her 
particular  capacity  for  writing  it,  together  with 
Charlotte's  available  information  ;  leaving  the  dis- 
cussion of  Branwell's  claim  for  a  later  page. 

110  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

All  we  know  about  Emily's  presumptive  author- 
ship is  that  when,  in  the  winter  of  1845-6,  Charlotte 
was  urging  each  of  her  sisters  to  "  prepare  "  a 
novel  for  pubhcation,  to  be  offered  along  with 
one  she  herself  had  written,  Emily  "  produced  " 
this  book,  "  Wuthering  Heights,"  to  be  sent  to 
the  pubHshers,  not  as  the  work  of  Emily  Bronte, 
but  of  "  Ellis  Bell,"  the  pseudonym  which  had 
been  already  assigned  to  her  in  connection  with  the 
publication  of  the  joint  book  of  Poems  which 
Charlotte  had  already  given  to  the  Press.  The 
book  was  presumably  in  her  hand-writing  and 
consequently  passed  for  hers,  but  there  is  no  evi- 
dence that  it  had  been  shown  to  her  other  sisters 
in  instalments,  or  discussed  between  them  "chap- 
ter by  chapter,"  as  some  critics  have  averred. 
We  have  Charlotte's  definite  statement  in  her 
"  Biographical  Introduction,"  made  with  special 
reference  to  this  work,  that  for  some  years  they 
had  "  discontinued  "  their  earlier  habit  of  inter- 
communication and  consultation. 

This  novel,  when  read  by  Charlotte  or  aloud  to 
her,  not  merely  surprised,  but  completely  astounded 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  ill 

her.  It  fell  on  her  ears  like  a  clap  of  thunder. 
She  was  absolutely  horrified.  She  admits  that  she 
"  shuddered "  as  she  hstened,  and  "  the  mere 
hearing  of  certain  vivid  and  fearful  scenes  banished 
sleep  by  night,  and  disturbed  mental  peace  by 
day."*  It  seemed  almost  inconceivable  to  her 
that  her  quiet,  retiring  sister  could  have  created 
anything  so  apparently  alien  to  her  own  disposi- 
tion, character  and  limited  experience.  The  whole 
relationship  between  Emily  and  the  book  which 
passed  ostensibly  as  hers  was  a  puzzle  and  a  prob- 
lem to  Charlotte  ;  but,  however  mystified  or 
curious  Charlotte  might  be,  Emily  never  enlight- 
ened her  sister  as  to  what  had  prompted  her  to 
such  a  strange  work.  She  remained  silent  and 
immutable  as  a  sphinx,  or  merely  put  Charlotte's 
complaints  aside  as  smacking  of  "  affectation." 
Obviously  she  would  not  discuss  the  work  in  any 
way,  at  least  not  with  Charlotte. 

Upon  its  pubhcation  eighteen  months  later,  in 
December,  1847,  we  find  Charlotte,  in  a  letter 
to  Mr.  Williams,  the  reader  for  Messrs.  Smith  & 

*  Preface  to   1850  edition  of  "  Wuthering  Heights," 

112  Patrick  Br anw ell  Bronte 

Elder,  half  apologizing  for  the  contrast  between 
the  "  refined  "  poetry  of  "  Elhs  Bell  "  and  the 
prose  of  "  Wuthering  Heights  " — a  prose  which, 
she  says,  "  breaks  forth  in  scenes  which  shock 
more  than  they  attract."*  The  book  had  a  bad 
reception,  and  a  bad  press.  The  author  was 
universally  supposed  to  be  a  man,  and  a  very  coarse 
and  brutal  one.  At  length  it  began  to  be  suggested 
that  "  it  was  an  earher  and  ruder  attempt  by  the 
same  pen  that  produced  '  Jane  Eyre.'  "  This  was 
in  the  summer  of  1848,  about  two  months  before 
Branwell's  death,  when  the  book  had  been  pub- 
lished only  about  six  months.  Charlotte  was  much 
upset,  and  determined  to  put  the  matter  right  with 
her  London  publishers  by  taking  her  sisters  with 
her  to  convince  Mr.  Williams  and  Mr.  Smith 
of  their  separate  identity.  Here  then  was  an  oppor- 
tunity for  Emily  to  proclaim  herself  the  veritable 
author  of  the  book.     But  what  happened  ? 

She  would  not,  and  did  not  go. 

None  the  less,  Mr.  Clement  Shorter,  in  his  eager 

*  Letter  to  W.   S.   Williams,  quoted   "  The  Brontes 
and  their  Circle,"  p.  146. 

Patrick  Br anw ell  Bronte  113 

anxiety  to  establish  Emily's  authorship,  is  deter- 
mined that  she  must  be  "  got  "  there,  and  accord- 
ingly makes  the  astonishing  blunder  of  putting 
Emily's  name  instead  of  Anne's  in  connection  with 
this  visit.*  Miss  Sinclair  avoids  this  pitfall,  but 
professes  to  account  for  Emily's  refusal  to  prefer 
her  claim  in  person  by  attributing  it  to  her  pride 
and  a  superb  indifference. 

But  Emily  went  even  further  than  this.  Not 
only  did  she  refuse  to  make  a  personal  claim  of 
authorship,  but,  on  Charlotte's  return,  she  evi- 
dently took  her  very  sharply  to  task  for  making 
unwarranted  assumptions  on  her  behalf,  namely, 
for  telling  Messrs.  Smith  and  Williams  that  there 
were  "  three "  sisters  who  were  authors.  Mrs. 
Chadwick  has  drawn  attention  to  this  point. 
In  reference  to  the  authorship  of  "  Wuthering 
Heights,"  she  says  :  "  It  was  sent  out  as  the  work 
of  Ellis  Bell,  and  only  as  such  was  she  determined 
that  it  should  be  known. "f     The  letter  Charlotte 

•  "  Brontes  and  their  Circle,"  p.  6.      A  Bronte  Chron- 

+  "  In  the  Footsteps  of  the  Brontgs,"  p.  325. 


114  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

was  immediately  pressed  by  Emily  to  write  in 
correction  of  this  error  is  given  by  Mr.  Shorter, 
and  I  here  quote  the  part  to  which  Mrs.  Chadwick 
refers  :  "  Permit  me  to  caution  you  not  to  speak 
of  my  sisters  when  you  write  to  me.  I  mean,  do 
not  use  the  word  in  the  plural.  Ellis  Bell  will 
not  endure  to  be  alluded  to  under  any  other 
appellation  than  the  nom-de-plume.  I  committed 
a  grand  error  in  betraying  his  identity  to  you  and 
Mr.  Smith.  It  was  inadvertent — the  words  '  we 
are  three  sisters  '  escaped  me  before  I  was  aware. 
I  regretted  the  avowal  the  moment  I  had  made 
it ;  I  regret  it  bitterly  now,  for  I  find  it  is  against 
every  feeling  and  intention  of  Ellis  Bell."* 

This  is  startling  evidence  indeed.  What  is  the 
obvious  deduction  from  this  strong,  almost  angry 
protest,  which  Charlotte  was  constrained  to  make 
on  behalf  of  Emily  ? 

Might  it  not  be  that  Emily,  who,  as  Charlotte 

tells  us,  was  incapable  of  "  trickery  ",  would  not 

for  one  moment  allow  it  to  be  either  presumed 

or  established  that  she,  Emily  Bronte,  was  to  be 

*  "  The  Brontes  and  their  Circle,"  p.  361. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  115 

identified  with  "  Ellis  Bell  "  ?  And,  what  for 
our  present  purpose  is  even  more  significant, 
we  find  her  insisting  that  this  same  "  Ellis,"  who 
is  not  to  be  identified  with  herself,  is  not  to  be 
assumed  to  be  one  of  the  "  three  sisters."  What 
then  is  the  inference  ?  Is  it  not  clear  from  these 
remarkable  stipulations  of  Emily's,  which  we  may 
beUeve  worried  Charlotte  not  a  httle,  that  Emily 
was  concealing  another  person's  authorship  under 
her  pseudonym  ?  That  by  obliging  Charlotte 
to  write  this  letter  she  went  as  far  as  she  possibly 
could  in  disclaiming  the  work  for  herself  ?  That, 
although  she  hated  and  was  incapable  of  "trickery" 
in  the  accepted  sense  of  that  word,  she  was  never- 
theless bound  in  some  mysterious,  secret  way 
not  to  reveal  the  real  authorship  of  the  book  ? 

Yet,  if  she  was  concealing  someone  else's 
authorship,  whose  could  it  be  ?  She  hotly  re- 
pudiates, through  Charlotte,  the  idea  that  "  Ellis 
Bell "  is  either  herself  or  one  of  the  Bronte 
"  sisters  "  :  who  then  was  "  Ellis  Bell  "  ?  And 
what  "  intention  "  of  Emily's  was  violated  by 
couphng   this  pseudonym  with  her  own  name  ? 

116  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

Was  "  Ellis  Bell  "  Branwell  Bronte  ?  And  was 
this  "  intention  "  of  Emily's  her  endeavour  to 
conceal  his  authorship  of  "  Wuthering  Heights  "  ? 
And  why  should  she  conceal  it  ? 

Before  entering  into  the  discussion  of  these 
exciting  questions,  it  is  first  necessary  to  deal 
with  Emily's  own  capacity  for  writing  the  book, 
and  to  enquire  closely  into  her  known  literary 
activities  at  the  very  period  when  she  produced 
"  Wuthering  Heights,"  and  handed  it  to  Charlotte 
for  publication.  This  will  take  us  back  to  the 
summer  of  1845,  and  more  particularly  to  the 
month  of  July,  when  Branwell  had  just  received 
his  dismissal  from  Thorp  Green,  and  Charlotte 
had  already  begun  to  turn  her  thoughts  to  the 
role  of  author. 

Students  of  the  Brontes  will  have  noticed  theii 
peculiar  love  of  "  secrets  "  ;  their  plays  were  often 
thus  described.  "  Best  plays  mean  secret  plays," 
writes  Charlotte  in  1829.*  They  maintained 
this  idea  of  secrecy  no  doubt  in  several  writings. 

*  " 

"  Life,"  p.  55.      "  These  are  our  three  great  plays 
that  are  not  kept  secret." 

Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte  117 

but  we  meet  with  it  notably  in  another  instance, 
at  a  much  later  date,  when  one  might  suppose 
they  had  outgrown  the  youthful  fancies  which 
had  first  prompted  it.  In  this  case  it  was  two 
secret  letters,  one  to  be  written  from  Anne  to 
Emily,  at  the  end  of  every  four  years,  and  one 
from  Emily  to  Anne  at  the  same  time.  Both 
letters  were  to  be  indited  and  locked  up,  and  finally 
opened  on  Emily's  birthday  at  the  close  of  the 
appointed  period.  This  little  piece  of  intimacy 
between  the  sisters  Anne  and  Emily,  who  were 
especially  devoted  to  one  another,  does  not  seem 
to  have  been  extended  to  Charlotte,  who  probably 
knew  nothing  about  it.  But  Emily  was  full  of 
fun,  and  enjoyed  a  specially  private  mystery 
between  herself  and  one  she  tenderly  loved. 
By  an  unprecedented  piece  of  literary  good 
fortune,  Mr.  Clement  Shorter  has  chanced  upon 
these  brief  little  records  for  the  years  1841  and 
1845.  Emily's  birthday  being  on  the  30th  of 
July,   they  are   dated   accordingly. 

In   these  letters   there   is   a  further  secret,   a 
private   hterary   partnership   between   Anne   and 

U  8  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

Emily  in  the  story  of  some  imaginary  people 
called  by  the  writers,  "  The  Gondialand."  In 
1841  Emily  writes  to  Anne  :  "  The  Gondialand 
are  at  present  in  a  threatening  state,  but  there  is 
no  open  rupture  as  yet.  All  the  princes  and 
princesses  of  the  Royalty  are  at  the  Palace  of 
Instruction."  In  Anne's  letter  of  the  same  date 
we  have  the  following  :  "  How  will  it  be  when  we 
open  this  paper  and  the  one  Emily  has  written  ? 
I  wonder  whether  the  Gondaland  {sic)  will  still  be 
flourishing,  and  what  will  be  their  condition  ? 
I  am  now  engaged  in  writing  the  fourth  volume 
of  Solala  Vernon's  life."  Next,  as  Mr.  Shorter 
says :  "  let  us  take  up  the  other  two  little  scraps 
of  paper.  They  are  dated  July  the  30th,  1845, 
i.e.,  on  Emily's  twenty-seventh  birthday."  There 
are  several  entries  referring  to  family  matters, 
but  aU  that  is  immediately  to  our  purpose  is  as 
follows :  "  Anne  left  her  situation  at  Thorp 
Green  of  her  own  account,  June,  1845.  Anne  and 
I  went  our  first  long  journey  by  ourselves  together, 
leaving  home  on  the  30th  June,  Monday,  sleeping 
at  York,  returning  to  Keighley  Tuesday  evening. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  1 19 

sleeping  there  and  walking  home  on  Wednesday 
morning.  .  .  .  And  during  our  excursion  we  were, 
Ronald  Macalgin,  Henry  Angora,  Juliet  Augusteena, 
Rosabella  Esmaldan,  Ella  and  Julian  Egremont, 
Catharine  Navarre  and  Cornelia  Fitzaphnold, 
escaping  from  the  Palaces  of  Instruction  to  join 
the  Royalists,  who  are  hard  driven  at  present 
by  the  victorious  Republicans.  The  Gondals 
still  flourish  bright  as  ever.  I  am  at  present 
writing  a  work  on  the  First  War.*  Anne  has  been 
writing  some  articles  on  this  and  a  book  by  Henry 
Sophona.  We  intend  sticking  firm  by  the  rascals 
as  long  as  they  delight  us,  which  I  am  glad  to  say 
they  do   at   present." 

So  much  for  the  letter  as  far  as  it  reveals  Emily's 
literary  occupations  at  this  particular  time,  July 
30th,  1845.  But  it  has  a  further  interest  for  us, 
so  we  will  quote  another  extract  :  "  We  are  all 
in  decent  health  only  that  papa  has  a  complaint 
in  his  eyes,  and  with  the  exception  of  B.  (Branwell) 
who,  I  hope,  will  be  better  and  do  better  here- 

•Also    "  The    Life    of    the    Emperor    Julius,"     vide 
Anne's  letter  infra. 

120  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

after.  I  am  quite  contented  for  myself :  not 
so  idle  as  formerly,  altogether  as  hearty,  and 
having  learnt  to  make  he  most  of  the  present, 
and  not  long  for  the  future  with  the  fidgetiness 
that  I  cannot  do  all  I  wish ;  seldom  or  ever 
troubled  with  nothing  to  do,  and  merely  desiring 
that  everybody  could  be  as  comfortable  as  myself, 
and  as  undesponding,  and  then  we  should  have  a 
very  tolerable  world  of  it.  ...  I  must  hurry 
off  now  to  my  turning  and  ironing.  I  have  plenty 
of  work  on  hand,  and  writing,  and  am  altogether 
full   of   business." 

The  value  of  these  letters  lies  in  the  fact  that 
they  are  the  only  pieces  of  self-revelation  Emily 
Bronte  ever  vouchsafed  to  any  member  of  her 
family.  Closely  analysed,  what  do  they  prove 
about  the  writer  ? 

We  find  her  possessed  of  a  spirit  of  humorous 
playfulness,  a  great  love  of  fun  and  of  romantic 
as  contrasted  with  realistic  invention.  She  is 
absorbed  in  the  Gondals  and  their  fortunes,  and 
is  busy  writing  about  them.  We  find  her  also 
full  of  a  tender  affection   towards  her  younger 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  121 

sister,  and  towards  her  brother,  concerning  whom 
she  is  quite  optimistic.  She  is,  in  fact,  full  of 
brightness  and  hope  for  everyone.  We  see  in  her 
one  of  the  helpers  of  the  world,  a  lifter  of  other 
people's  burdens,  glorying  in  her  strength.  And 
yet  it  is  this  bright  and  brave  creature,  hating 
every  species  of  depression,  who  is  to  be  credited 
with  the  creation  of  the  dark,  hopeless,  tragic 
story  unfolded  in  the  gloomy  pages  of  "  Wuthering 

Next  let  us  take  a  glance  at  Anne's  letter  of  the 
same  date.  After  referring  enigmatically  to  her 
"  escape  "  from  Thorp  Green,  where,  she  remarks' 
"  I  have  had  some  very  unpleasant  and  undreamt- 
of experience  of  human  nature,"  she  refers  to  her 
brother  who  has  "  been  a  tutor  there,  and  has  had 
much  tribulation  and  ill-health.  He  was,"  she 
goes  on,  "  very  ill  on  Thursday,  but  he  went, 
with  John  Brown,  to  Liverpool,  where  he  is  now, 
I  suppose  ;  and  we  hope  he  will  be  better  and  do 
better  in  future.  .  .  .  Emily  is  engaged  in  writing 
the  Emperor  Julius's  life.  She  has  read  some  of 
it,  and  I  very  much  want  to  hear  the  rest.     She 

122  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

is  writing  some  poetry  too.  I  wonder  what  it  is 
about.  I  have  begun  the  third  volume  of  '  Passages 
in  the  Life  of  an  Individual.'  We  have  not  yet 
finished  our  Gondal  Chronicles  that  we  began 
three  and  a  half  years  ago."* 

This  extract  is  important,  as  it  refers  to  what 
Emily  was  doing  at  this  time,  and  confirms  her 
own  admission  that  she  was  working  at  Gondal 
subjects.  It  will  be  noticed  that  there  is  very 
little  reference  to  Charlotte  throughout  the  letters. 
She  was  evidently  not  admitted  to  this  confidential 
gossiping  chronicle  between  the  two  younger 
sisters,  and  probably  knew  nothing  of  the  Gondal 
literature.  The  whole  scheme  of  the  Gondal 
History  appears  as  a  "  secret  "  between  Anne 
and  Emily,  and  no  one  else  was  allowed  to  be 
concerned  in  its  creation. 

The  "  Poems "  here  referred  to,  and  about 
which  Anne  was  curious,  were  a  very  secret  and 
private  possession  of  Emily's.  No  one  had  been 
permitted  to  see  them,  and,  but  for  an  accidental 

*  For  these  letters  in  full,    see    "  Brontes  and  their 
Circle,"  p.  134-140. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  123 

discovery  of  them  by  Charlotte  shortly  after  this 
letter  was  written,  it  is  possible  they  would  never 
have  been  made  known  in  Emily's  lifetime. 
We  know  how  Charlotte  finally  persuaded  her 
sister  to  allow  her  to  publish  them,  and  how  for 
the  purpose  of  anonymity  Charlotte  suggested 
they  should  assume  the  pseudonyms  of  the  three 
"  Bells."  Poetry  was  indeed  Emily's  greatest 
gift.  Poetic  inspiration  was  the  very  breath 
of  her  nostrils. 

But  a  close  examination  of  Emily's  own  work, 
both  at  this  period,  when,  as  we  have  seen,  she 
was  absorbed  with  the  "  Gondals,"  writing  the 
"  History  of  the  First  War  "  and  "  The  Emperor 
Juhus's  Life,"  when  most  of  her  poetry  was 
written,  must  convince  any  unprejudiced  critic 
that  realistic  fiction  was  not  at  all  in  her  line. 
Anne  and  Charlotte  were  vivid  reahsts  :  they  used 
all  the  scanty  material  that  lay  to  hand,  their  own 
schooldays,  or  their  teaching  experiences,  varied 
and  enriched  with  a  vein  of  romance  or  a  fiery 
eruption  of  passion  working  through  the  dull 
grey  lava  of  composition.     Not  so  Emily.     Her 

124  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

mind  was  outside  all  these  mundane  desires  and 
experiences  ;  it  was  out  on  the  moors,  or  even 
above  the  moors,  soaring  up  to  the  fantastic 
companies  among  whom  she  had  dwelt  so  long  ; 
not  degraded  to  the  drunken  ravings  of  a  Hindley 
Earnshaw,  or  the  demoniac  machinations  of  a 
Heathcliff,  or  even  occupied  with  the  placid, 
practical-minded  prosings  of  a  Mrs.  Nelly  Dean. 
Emily's  imagination  was  peopled  with  beings  of 
another  world  altogether.  She  was,  like  Blake, 
a  visionary  of  the  purest  exaltation.  Men  and 
women  of  the  usual  individual  types,  that  is, 
as  men  and  women,  did  not  appeal  to  her  ;  she 
avoided  them  on  every  occasion,  indeed  fled  before 
them.  Charlotte  lets  this  slip  inadvertently,  in 
a  letter  to  Mr.  Williams  :  "I  should  much,  very 
much,  like  to  take  that  quiet  view  of  the  '  Great 
World  '  you  allude  to.  .  .  .  Ellis,  I  imagine, 
would  soon  turn  aside  from  the  spectacle  in 
disgust.  I  do  not  think  he  admits  it  as  his  creed 
that  '  the  proper  study  of  mankind  is  man  ' — 
at  least  not  the  artificial  man  of  cities."*  Not 
•  "  The  Brontes  and  their  Circle,"  p.   148. 

Patrick  Branzoell  Bronte  125 

indeed  man  anyAvhere  !  One  can  as  soon  imagine 
John  Milton  writing  a  novel  as  Emily  Bronte, 
One  has  only  to  read  her  inspired  poetry  to  feel 
how  far  above  earth  her  spirit  waged  its  warfare  : 
her  love  was  never  given  to  an  earthly  human 
lover.  Her  body  was  on  earth,  but  her  mind 
and  spirit  were  far  above,  out  and  away  beyond  it. 
Like  "  Bonny  Kilmeny  "  she  "  had  been  she  knew 
not  where,"  and  her  "  eyes  had  seen  what  she 
could  not  declare  " ;  she  had  been,  like  KUmeny, 

"  Where  the  cock  never  crew, 
Where  the  rain  never  fell,  and  the  wind  never  blew, 
But  it  seemed  as  the  harp  of  the  sky  had  rung, 
And  the  airs  of  Heaven  played  round  her  tongue. 
When  she  spake  of  the  lovely  forms  she  had  seen. 
And  a  land  where  sin  had  never  been." 

She  was  in  fact  completely  absorbed  in  her  dream- 
world, the  world  of  the  Gondialand.  She  was  not 
interested  enough  in  them  to  write  about  any 
earthly  horses  or  stables,  either  at  the  Heights 
or  at  Thrushcross  Grange  :  riding  only  the  winged 
steeds  of  her  fiery  imagination,  "  the  Horse  Black 
Eagle  I  rode  at  the  Battle  of  Zamorna."  Many 
of  her  poems  are  Gondal  poems,  though  we  cannot 

126  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

now  trace  their  connection  with  the  History  of  the 
Gondals,  as  the  Chronicles  have  perished,  probably 
destroyed  by  Charlotte,  because  appearing  too 
wildly  imaginary  for  the  latter-day  world  in  which 
she  moved  and  had  her  being.  She  thought  them 
rather  childish,  a  little  too  romantic  for  "  grown- 
ups "  to  be  occupied  with.  At  any  rate,  they 
are  gone,  and  much  of  Emily  has  perished  with 
them.  So  withdrawn  was  Emily's  spirit,  so 
intense  her  reserve,  that  even  to  her  darling  sister 
Anne  she  had  not  confided  a  line  of  her  Poems, 
so  that  we  can  but  faintly  imagine  her  fury  when 
Charlotte  discovered  and  rifled  her  hidden  nest. 
"  It  took  hours,"  says  Charlotte,  "  to  reconcile 
her  to  the  discovery  I  had  made,  and  days  to 
persuade  her  that  such  poems  merited  publication." 
Yet  it  is  this  Emily,  hiding  in  a  locked  desk 
her  secretly  written  verses  from  the  eyes  even  of 
her  favourite  sister,  Anne,  and  so  hotly  resenting 
Charlotte's  accidental  inspection  of  them  ;  it  is 
this  Emily,  jealously  guarding  the  Gondialand 
secret  from  the  rest  of  the  family ;  it  is  this 
fiercely     exclusive,     passionately     self-contained 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  127 

writer,  with  a  personality  shy  as  the  most  furtive 
woodland  animal,  fleeing  from  contact  with  its 
fellows,  shunning  and  even  dreading  every  kind 
of  publicity — this  is  the  Emily  who,  we  are  invited 
to  beheve,  offered  a  novel  to  the  public  gaze,  and 
asked  Charlotte  to  arrange  for  its  publication. 
Can  we  really  believe  this  ? 

It  is  true  that  her  poems  were  finally  laid  before 
the  public  under  an  assumed  name,  but  we  have 
seen  how,  much  against  her  will,  they  were  torn 
from  her  by  Charlotte.  Had  Charlotte  not  un- 
earthed them,  it  is  quite  certain  Emily  would  never 
have  disclosed  their  existence.  It  is  surely  obvious 
that  at  this  date,  the  winter  of  1845-6,  any  idea 
of  writing  for  the  public  had  never  so  much  as 
crossed  Emily  Bronte's  mind.  She  had  none  of 
the  cravings  that  devoured  her  sister  Charlotte 
to  make  a  name  in  the  world.  Indeed,  Charlotte 
admits  in  the  "  Biographical  Notice  of  her  Sisters," 
prefixed  to  the  1850  edition  of  "  Wuthering 
Heights,"  what  difficulty  she  had  to  "  fan  "  even 
the  tiny  spark  of  latent  ambition  in  Emily's  mind, 
which  makes  her  calm  production  of  the  novel  of 

12  8  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

*'  Wuthering  Heights "  a  mysterious  and  inex- 
plicable thing — unless,  that  is,  we  may  accept 
the  hypothesis  that  she  was  acting  on  behalf  of 
a  concealed  author. 

But,  apart  from  Emily  Bronte's  distaste  for  pub- 
licity, there  are  other  considerations  and  arguments 
induced  by  a  study  of  her  peculiar  personality 
which  make  it  difficult  to  imagine  her  as  the 
author  of  this  book.  No  work  such  as  "  Wuthering 
Heights "  could  possibly  be  produced  without 
some  raison  d'etre,  and  where  can  we  find  any 
raison  d'etre  for  Emily's  authorship  ?  Men  and 
women  are  not  stirred  up  to  write  passionate 
works  unless  they  have  experienced  something 
of  such  passions  themselves,  and  this  terrible  story 
is  utterly  out  of  harmony  with  what  we  know  of 
her  spiritual  or  her  visionary  nature.  It  is 
sharply  in  contrast  with  her  calm,  helpful  attitude 
towards  others,  that  high,  brave,  contented 
outlook  which  made  her  anxious  that  everyone 
should  be  as  cheerful  as  herself,  so  that  there  could 
be  a  "  very  tolerable  world  "  for  those  around 
her.     The  author  of  "  Wuthering  Heights  "  did 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  12  9 

not  find  the  world  tolerable,  or  care  whether  it 
was  so  or  not,  or  tend  to  make  it  more  so  by  his 
writings.  From  the  ethical  point  of  view  the 
book  will  not  help  anyone,  masterpiece  though 
it  be.  It  is,  on  the  contrary,  one  of  the  most 
depressing  works  ever  written,  and  the  misery  of 
the  chief  characters  in  it  is  never  relieved  until  the 
very  end.  To  write  such  a  book  would  never  have 
suited  Emily.  She  was  not  out  to  upset  the  world  : 
it  was  hard  enough  to  have  to  upset  Charlotte, 
who  took  the  hearing  of  it  so  badly. 

As  for  the  suggestion  made  both  by  Sir  Wemyss 
Reid  and  Miss  Robinson,  that  Emily  drew  the  study 
of  Heathcliff  from  her  unfortunate  brother's  ex- 
periences, that  she  was  so  cruelly  detached  from 
human  sympathy  as  to  "  use  "  his  vices  for  her 
own  artistic  ends,  and  so  "  drew  its  profit  from 
her  brother's  shame,"  the  suggestion  is  an  outrage 
on  this  loving  guardian  of  her  brother.  If  we 
interpret  that  fiery  nature  aright,  we  must  believe 
that  Emily  would  rather  have  bitten  out  her  tongue 
or  burnt  off  the  offending  hand  than  have  uttered 
or  penned  a  line  that  should  defame  him. 

1 30  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

There  was  undoubtedly  something  in  Emily's 
attitude  about  the  book  which  puzzled  Charlotte, 
though  she  could  not  precisely  define  it  even  to 
herself.  She  was,  as  we  have  seen,  shocked  beyond 
measure  at  its  subject  matter  and  language, 
and  nearly  all  her  references  to  it,  both  in 
her  letters  to  Mr.  Williams  and  in  her  1850 
Preface,  are  more  or  less  apologetic.  Emily, 
as  we  have  seen,  would  not  discuss  the  book  with 
her,  or  answer  any  questions,  even  had  Charlotte 
dared  to  put  them.  We  gather  the  impression 
that  Charlotte  was  not  a  little  frightened  by  her 
younger  sister,  of  whom  she  significantly  observes 
in  her  biographical  introduction  to  the  work : 
"  My  sister  Emily  was  not  a  person  of  demonstra- 
tive character,  nor  one  on  the  recesses  of  whose 
mind  and  feelings  even  those  nearest  and  dearest 
to  her  could,  with  impunity,  intrude  unlicensed  "  ; 
and  elsewhere,  in  a  letter  to  Miss  Nussey,  we  find 
her  complaining  that  "it  is  useless  to  question 
her — you  get  no  answers." 

Yet  the  fact  remains  that,  when  Charlotte 
appealed  to  Emily  for  a  novel  to  offer  for  publica- 

Patrick  Branivell  Bronte  131 

tion,  Emily  produced  "  Wuthering  Heights," 
and  that,  after  Emily's  death,  Charlotte,  by 
arrangement  with  her  own  publishers,  wrote  a 
special  Preface  to  it,  claiming  the  work  as  Emily's. 
How  then  can  we  account  for  Charlotte's  positive 
affirmation  of  her  sister's  authorship,  made  in 
good  faith,  and  duly,  if  tardily,  accepted  by  the 
public  ?  If  Emily  did  not  write  it,  then  how  or 
why  did  she  "  produce  "  it  ?  For  its  appearance 
as  coming  from  Emily  Bronte  is  only  less  mar- 
vellous than  Jove's  reputed  pr  oduction  of  Minerva 
from  his  brain  :  on  the  other  hand,  if  Branwell 
wrote  it,  there  is  no  marvel. 

It  is  not  incompatible  with  what  we  know  of 
Emily  Bronte's  espousal  of  aU  weak  and  helpless 
things  and  causes  that  she  should  strain  every 
nerve  to  rouse  and  encourage  her  weak  and  nerve- 
wracked  brother's  ambitions  and  genius.  We 
have,  at  any  rate,  good  reason  to  believe  that 
Emily  and  Branwell  were  peculiarly  attached  to 
each  other,  and  that  her  care  of  him  came  to  absorb 
a  great  part  of  her  life.  In  this  we  have  the  support 
of  Miss  Mary  F.  Robinson's  account  of  Emily's 

132  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

devotion,  and  she  probably  got  it  from  Miss  Nussey ; 
there  is  also  the  strong  village  tradition  referred 
to  by  Mrs.  Chadwick.  According  to  Miss 
Robinson,  it  was  Emily  who  waited  up  for  him  at 
night,  and  let  him  into  the  Parsonage  long  after 
the  other  members  of  the  family  had  retired  to 
bed.  After  his  death,  too,  according  to  the  old 
servants,  it  was  Emily  who  mourned  most  for 
her  brother.  "  She  died  of  a  broken  heart  for  love 
of  her  brother,"  is  the  report  of  Martha  Brown's 
sister.*  In  the  close  intimacy  obtaining  between 
them  at  this  time,  it  is  inconceivable  that  Branwell 
should  not  have  confided  to  a  beloved  and  loyal 
sister  the  project  of  a  novel  upon  which,  we  shall 
show  later,  he  was  concentrating  his  efforts.  I 
think  on  the  evidence  we  are  justified  in  sketching 
out  what  really  happened  something  on  these  lines. 
He  read  it  to  her  as  he  went  along ;  gave  her  the 
parts  he  had  already  completed,  told  her  what 
plot  and  sequel  he  had  planned.  After  the  first 
burst  of  energy  in  its  creation  was  spent,  his 
volatile  nature  flagged  in  the  determination  to 
*  Chadwick,  "  In  the  Footsteps  of  the  Brontes,"  p.  361. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  133 

complete.  Emily  urged  him  to  continue,  and 
offered  to  help  him  with  the  copying  or  with  the 
more  tedious  parts  of  composition,  and  finally 
pressed  him  to  end  it  on  that  note  of  hopefulness 
which  flashes  like  evening  sunlight  through  the 
general  gloom  in  which  the  story  is  shrouded. 

We  may  believe,"  moreover,  that  Emily  was 
deeply  impressed  with  the  work,  and  pressed  her 
brother  to  show  it,  or  to  let  her  show  it  to  Charlotte, 
who  was  so  full  of  literary  projects  for  the  family 
— Branwell  excepted  ;  and  we  may  equally  believe 
that  Branwell,  smarting  under  the  sting  of 
Charlotte's  reproaches,  refused ;  that  keenly 
resenting  Charlotte's  neglect,  and  the  fact  of  her 
ignoring  his  "  Poems  "  when  she  arranged  for  the 
publication  of  her  own  and  her  sisters'  efforts, 
his  pride  was  roused ;  that  one  of  the  conditions 
he  made  with  Emily,  when  he  showed  her  his  work, 
was  that  it  should  be  kept  a  secret  from  the  rest 
of  the  family,  especially  from  Charlotte.  Only 
Emily  should  know  ;  he  was  certain  he  could 
trust  her.  Had  he  even  wished  to  let  Charlotte 
see  his  handiwork,  he  would  never  have  dared 

134  Patrick  Br anw ell  Bronte 

to  face  her  with  the  subject  of  that  work.  The 
whole  terrible  story  of  one  man's  infatuation  for 
the  wife  of  another,  his  cold-blooded  schemes  to 
get  possession  of  her,  his  deliberate  revenge  upon 
the  family  of  the  man  and  woman  who  had 
wronged  and  thwarted  him,  if  presented  by 
a  brother  who  had  just  been  dismissed  in  disgrace 
for  a  similar  unlawful  passion,  with  which  Charlotte 
was  completely  out  of  sympathy,  would  have 
made  the  work  abhorrent  to  her  ;  she  would  have 
indignantly  refused  to  have  anything  to  do  with 
it.  Reading  into  her  brother's  character  much 
of  Heathcliff' s  depravity  of  mind ;  viewing  the 
work  as  the  outcome  of  his  low  or  coarse  associa- 
tions ;  drawing  consequently  the  worst  possible 
conclusions  as  to  the  company  he  frequented ; 
arguing  that  from  these  sources  alone  could  he 
have  gleaned  the  dreadful  details  and  horrible 
language  found  in  the  book  :  obviously  a  frank 
and  open  appeal  to  Charlotte  was  entirely  out  of 
the  question,  and  Emily  was  probably  induced 
to  see  this. 

Yet  her  great  fear  was  that  Branwell  should 

I'atkick's  Chaik.  " 

Hrainvell's  favourite  seat  in  the  parlour  of  the  Bhick  Bull  Inn. 

Ha  worth. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  135 

throw  up  the  book.  Emily  knew  it  was  important, 
above  all  things,  for  him  to  find  an  interest  in 
life,  something  to  take  him  out  of  himself,  and  to 
keep  him  from  brooding.  Her  interest  stimulated 
him  afresh,  difficult  though  it  was  to  keep  him  up 
to  it.  Charlotte's  suggestion  in  the  winter  of 
1845  or  early  1846,  that  each  of  her  sisters  and  she 
herself  should  write  a  novel  and  offer  them  for 
publication,  gave  Emily,  in  a  flash,  the  lead,  the 
opening  she  was  seeking  for  Branwell.  Why 
not  urge  him  to  finish  it  and  leave  it  to  her  to  get 
it  offered  for  publication  ?  She,  at  all  events, 
would  have  no  hesitation  in  producing  it  under  a 
pseudonym,  the  one  which  Charlotte  had  already 
invented  for  her,  and  Charlotte  should  not  be 
allowed  to  ask  any  questions.  She  had  herself 
no  novel  to  offer,  but  here  was  this  fine  story  of 
Branwell's.  His  need  was  great,  and  Emily  was 
not  the  one  to  shrink  from  a  likely  attempt.  She 
would  shoulder  the  responsibility,  if  only  he  would 
finish  it. 

Of  course,  we  do  not  and  cannot  know  what 
precisely    happened :     we    can    only    conjecture. 

136  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

But,  where  so  many  conjectures  have  been  already 
hazarded  about  the  Brontes,  it  is  not  very  far- 
fetched to  suppose  that  this  generous  sister  under- 
took to  help  him,  both  by  making  a  fresh  copy 
of  what  he  had  done,  and  by  copying  out  the  re- 
mainder until  he  had  finished  it :  she  may  have 
written  some  connecting  portions  of  the  work. 
Having  done  all  this  and  being  determined  that, 
evading  Charlotte's  boycott,  the  novel  should  have 
its  chance,  her  only  course  lay  in  adopting  the  work, 
with  her  brother's  full  approbation  and  gratitude, 
and  becoming  its  patron  and  foster-mother.  At 
worst  it  was  only  a  ruse  to  keep  Bran  well's  author- 
ship from  Charlotte,  a  pious  fraud,  completely 
justified  by  the  very  exceptional  circumstances. 
There  was  no  thought  of  "  trickery "  in  the 
matter.  It  was  a  private  arrangement  between 
herself  and  the  author,  in  fact  a  kind  of  literary 
partnership.  There  was  no  fraud  in  helping 
to  get  a  brother's  book  published,  acting  entirely 
n  his  interest  and  with  his  consent.  It  was  her 
secret  and  BranweU's  just  as  the  "  Gondal " 
writings  were  her  secret  and  Anne's.     A  mystery. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  137 

if  you  like,  but  as  we  have  seen,  all  the  Brontes 
were  inclined  to  make  a  mystery  of  their 
writings,  especially  Emily. 

Charlotte,  indeed,  carried  this  foible  farthest 
in  trying  to  conceal  her  authorship  of  "  Jane 
Eyre  "  from  even  her  bosom  friend,  Ellen  Nussey  : 
"  Though  twenty  books  were  ascribed  to  me,  I 
should  own  none.  I  scout  the  idea  utterly. 
Whoever,  after  I  have  distinctly  rejected  the 
charge,  urges  it  upon  me,  will  do  an  unkind  and 
ill-bred  thing.  If,  then,  any  B-an,  or  G-an,  should 
presume  to  bore  you  on  the  subject,  to  ask  you 
what  '  novel '  Miss  Bronte  has  been  '  publishing,' 
you  may  just  say,  with  that  firmness  of  which 
you  are  the  perfect  mistress  when  you  choose, 
that  you  are  authorized  by  Miss  Bronte  to  say 
that  she  repels  and  disowns  every  accusation  of 
the  kind."* 

This  denial  of  publication  was  a  much  greater 
departure  from  the  truth  than  what  we  ascribe  to 
Emily  ;  but,  in  Charlotte's  case,  the  excuse  was 
furnished  by  Mrs.  Gaskell  that  she  had  pledged 

*   "  Life,"  p.  245. 

188  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

her  word  to  her  sisters  not  to  reveal  it.  Had  not 
Emily  a  better  excuse  for  preserving  BranweU's 
secret  ? 

Furthermore,  we  must  remember  that,  in  dealing 
with  Emily  Bronte,  we  are  up  against  a  strong 
and  exceedingly  peculiar  personality,  a  personality 
so  strong  indeed  that  she  deemed  herself  account- 
able to  no  one  for  any  course  or  attitude  she  chose 
to  pursue  or  assume.  Miss  Nussey  has  said  of 
her  that  "  she  was  in  the  strictest  sense  a  law 
unto  herself,  and  a  heroine  in  keeping  to  her  law."* 
If  Emily  thought  it  right  to  help  Branwell  in  his 
urgent  need  of  encouragement,  and  saw  no  other 
way  but  this,  she  would  pursue  it ;  nothing 
would  stop  her ;  for  those  she  loved  she  would 
risk  anything.  No  one  dared  question  her, 
Charlotte  least  of  all,  and  she  herself  volunteered 
nothing.  She  declined  to  enter  into  any  corres- 
pondence with  the  publishers,  but  treated  with 
them  through  Charlotte  or  Anne.  With  that 
independence  of  character  which  shrank  from  no 
issue,  she  was  willing  to  take  on  her  shoulders  all 
*  "  The  Brontes  and  their  Circle." 

Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte  13U 

the  consequences  of  this  daring  action.  If  the 
book  failed  to  find  a  publisher,  as  it  might  well  do 
from  the  strange  and  tragic  character  of  its  con- 
tents, no  harm  was  done  ;  if,  after  pubhcation, 
it  attracted  no  attention,  or  was  roundly  abused,  or 
brought  little  credit  to  its  author — no  matter : 
"  Ellis  Bell  "  would  bear  the  blame,  and,  as  we 
know,  "  Ellis  "  did  bear  it. 

The  book  had  no  success  in  Branwell's  lifetime  ; 
he  only  lived  eight  months  after  its  publication, 
and  was  then  too  far  gone  in  consumption  and 
despair  to  take  any  interest  in  its  fate  ;  for  by 
that  time  the  once  bright  flame  of  his  ambition  had 
sunk  so  low  that  scarcely  even  its  embers  remained 
— all  his  desire  for  fame  was  now  but  as  dust  and 
ashes  within  him.  Certainly  after  its  publication 
he  had  few  opportunities  of  discussing  it  with 
his  friends,  nor  perhaps,  till  after  his  death,  were 
they  aware  of  its  existence.  It  was  many  years 
before  it  obtained  much,  if  any,  circulation  in  the 
neighbourhood  of  Haworth  or  Halifax.  And,  but 
for  Emily,  "  Wuthering  Heights "  would  never 
have  reached  the  press,   would  have   been   cast 

1 40  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

into    the    limbo    of    Branwell's    other   unfinished 

Charlotte,  however,  shocked  and  mystified  by 
the  work  itself,  had  no  reason  to  doubt  Emily's 
authorship  of  the  novel  she  "  produced,"  though 
she  had  no  direct  evidence  from  Emily  herself. 
As  even  her  stout  champion.  Miss  Sinclair,  has 
to  admit :  "  She  left  no  record,  not  a  note  or  a  worid 
to  prove  her  authorship." 


WUTHERING  HEIGHTS— By  Branwell  ? 

We  must  now  examine  the  evidences  of  Branwell's 
actual  known  literary  power  and  achievements, 
and  the  particular  reasons  for  believing  that 
he  was  the  author  of  "  Wuthering  Heights." 

It  will  be  necessary  to  turn  back  again  to  the 
year  1845,  and  to  the  close  of  the  month  of  July, 
when  Branwell,  summarily  dismissed  from  his 
tutorship,  had  returned  home,  because  it  was 
during  the  months  immediately  following  his 
return  that  his  literary  activities,  already  alluded 
to,  have  a  special  significance  in  connection  with 
our  enquiry. 

During  the  time  when  so  many  of  Branwell's 
critics  suppose  that  he  was  giving  his  entire  leisure 
to  drink  and  dissipation,  we  have  his  own  evidence, 
taken  from  a  letter  he  wrote  to  his  friend  Leyland 
in  September,  1845,  less  than  two  months  after 
he  left  Thorp  Green,  that  he  had  long  been  turning 


142  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

over  a  great  literary  project  in  his  mind.  This 
was  the  preparation  of  a  novel  in  three  volumes. 
His  own  words  are  as  follows  : 

"  I  have,  since  I  saw  you  at  Halifax,  devoted 
my  hours  of  time,  snatched  from  downright 
illness,  to  the  composition  of  a  three-volume 
novel,  one  volume  of  which  is  completed, 
and,  along  with  the  two  forthcoming  ones,  has 
been  really  the  result  of  half  a  dozen  by-past 
years  of  thoughts  about,  and  experience  in,  this 
crooked  path  of  life.  I  feel  that  I  must  rouse 
myself  to  attempt  something,  while  roasting 
daily  and  nightly  over  a  slow  fire,  to  while  away 
my  torments ;  and  I  know  that,  in  the  present 
state  of  the  publishing  and  reading  world,  a 
novel  is  the  most  saleable  article.  .  .  .  My 
novel  is  the  result  of  years  of  thought ;  and  if 
it  gives  the  vivid  picture  of  human  feehngs  for 
good  and  evil,  veiled  by  the  cloak  of  deceit  which 
must  enwrap  man  and  woman  ;  if  it  records  as 
faithfully  as  the  pages  that  unveil  man's  heart 
in  '  Hamlet '  or  '  Lear  '  the  conflicting  feelings 
and    clashing    pursuits   in    our    uncertain    path 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  143 

through  life,  I  shall  be  as  much  gratified  (and  as 
much  astonished)  as  I  should  be  if,  in  betting 
that  I  could  jump  the  Mersey,  I  jumped  over  the 
Irish  Sea.  It  would  not  be  more  pleasant  to 
light  on  Dublin  instead  of  Birkenhead  than  to 
leap  from  the  present  bathos  of  fictitious  litera- 
ture to  the  firmly  fixed  rock  honoured  by  the 
foot  of  a  Smollett  or  a  Fielding. 

"  That  jump  I  expect  to  take  when  I  can 
model  a  rival  to  your  noble  Theseus,  who  haunted 
my  dreams  when  I  slept  after  seeing  him.  But 
meanwhile  I  can  try  my  utmost  to  rouse  myself 
from  almost  killing  cares,  and  that  alone  will  be 
its  own  reward."* 

In  commenting  upon  this  letter  there  are 
several  points  to  notice.  First  of  all,  it  is  evident 
that  for  many  months  before  he  left  Thorp  Green, 
Branwell  had  been  working  on  a  novel,  seeing 
that  the  first  volume  of  it  was  completed  by 
September,  1845.  This  would  mean  then  that 
the  idea  of  a  novel  as  the  most  profitable  and 
saleable  species  of  literature  had  in  all  probability 
•  "  Leyland."  II,  p.  83-84. 

144  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

been  suggested  by  him  to  Charlotte  or  Anne  in 
their  Christmas  or  other  gathering  at  the  Par- 
sonage, and  Charlotte  had  been  quick  to  take 
up  the  idea,  and  had  commenced  operations 
already,  privately  of  course,  with  the  "  Pro- 
fessor." Anne  also  had  started  on  her  "  Passages 
in  the  Life  of  an  Individual,"  afterwards  pro- 
duced as  "  Agnes  Grey." 

Another  point  is  that,  as  Branwell's  novel 
was  one  inspired  by  "  half  a  dozen  by-past 
years  of  thoughts  about  and  experience  in 
this  crooked  path  of  life,"  it  was  obviously  a 
recital  of  some  of  the  things  in  his  own  life. 
But  his  story  was,  he  tells  us,  "  veiled  by 
the  cloak  of  deceit  which  must  enwTap  man 
and  woman,"  which  may  be  taken  to  mean 
that,  though  he  had  used  his  own  real  experiences 
and  those  of  some  other  person,  he  had  covered 
up  these  experiences  in  such  a  "  veiled  "  wrapping 
that  they  would  not  be  easily  recognized.  That 
the  story  was  a  tragic  revelation  of  the  passions 
of  the  human  heart,  morbid,  unhappy,  despairing 
and    stormy,    may    be    deduced    from    the    com- 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  145 

parison  with  such  revelations  as  those  of  "  Lear  " 
and  "  Hamlet."  The  presentation  of  the  picture 
was  "  vivid,"  and  it  was  not  written  in  the  current 
style  of  "  fictitious  "  literature,  but  in  the  simple, 
realistic  style  of  Smollett  or  Fielding.  All  these 
characteristics  of  Branwell's  novel  apply  to  the 
tragic  story  of  "  Wuthering  Heights."  It  will 
further  be  noticed  that  Branwell  refers  to  the 
remaining  volumes  as  "  forthcoming,"  an  ex- 
pression that  may  be  taken  to  imply  that,  though 
not,  like  the  first  volume,  completed,  they  were 
actually  in  hand.  Branwell  then  was  working 
hard  at  this  novel,  in  the  autumn  of  1845,  to 
"  rouse  himself  from  killing  cares  "  and  "  while 
roasting  over  a  slow  fire  "  of  mental  torment, 
in  which  his  recent  experiences  at  Thorp  Green 
would  be  continually  present  to  his  mind,  and 
would  indubitably  colour  his  narrative.  And  he 
was  thus  steadily  and  passionately  employed  on  this 
work,  in  which  he  gave  free  play  to  his  feelings, 
at  the  very  time  when  he  is  represented  by  his 
detractors,  encouraged  by  Charlotte's  reports,  as 
being  entirely  given  up  to  the  consumption  of 
drink  and  opium. 

146  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

We  get  other  glimpses  of  Branwell's  novel, 
and  his  tragic  subject,  from  an  account  given  by 
a  friend  of  his,  Mr.  William  Dearden,  who  was 
induced  many  years  later,  by  a  query  concerning 
the  authorship  of  "  Wuthering  Heights,"  to 
communicate  to  the  Halifax  Guardian,  of  June, 
1867,  some  "  facts  within  his  personal  knowledge  " 
relating  to  the  authorship  of  that  work.  Having 
entered  on  a  friendly  poetic  contest  with  Branwell, 
they  were  to  meet  at  a  small  hostelry  on  the  road 
to  Keighley,  where,  under  the  presidency  of  Mr. 
Leyland,  each  was  in  turn  to  read  his  production. 
By  an  annoying  mischance  Branwell  had  brought 
the  wrong  papers  with  him,  and  drew  from  his  hat, 
where  it  was  convenient  to  carry  notes,  the  MSS. 
of  a  novel  he  was  writing.  "  Chagrined  at  the 
disappointment  he  had  caused,"  says  Mr.  Dear- 
den, "  he  was  about  to  return  the  papers  to  his 
hat,  when  both  friends  earnestly  pressed  him  to 
read  them,  as  they  felt  a  curiosity  to  see  how  he 
could  wield  the  pen  of  a  novelist.  After  some 
hesitation  he  complied  with  the  request,  and 
riveted  our  attention  for  about  an  hour.     .     .     . 

Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte  147 

The  story  broke  off  abruptly  in  the  middle  of  a 
sentence,  and  he  gave  us  the  sequel  viva  voce, 
together  with  the  real  names  of  the  prototypes 
of  his  characters  ;  but,  as  some  of  these  person- 
ages are  still  living,  I  refrain  from  pointing  them 
out  to  the  public.  He  said  he  had  not  yet  fixed 
upon  a  title  for  his  production,  and  was  afraid 
he  should  never  be  able  to  meet  with  a  publisher 
who  would  have  the  hardihood  to  usher  it  into 
the  world.  The  scene  of  the  fragment  which 
Branwell  read,  and  the  characters  introduced 
into  it — so  far  as  then  developed — were  the  same 
as  those  in  "  Wuthering  Heights,"  which  Char- 
lotte Bronte  confidently  asserts  was  the  pro- 
duction of  her  sister  Emily."* 

Now,  Branwell 's  emphatic  remark  that  he  feared 
he  would  never  meet  with  a  publisher  who  would 
have  the  "  hardihood  "  to  print  his  novel  indicates 
that  the  story  was  of  a  terrible  nature,  one  which 
it  would  require  some  courage  to  publish.  Further, 
from  Mr.  Dearden's  identification  of  some  of  the 
characters,  as  given  him  by  Branwell,  we  gather 
•  "  Leyland,"  II,  p.  186-188. 

148  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

that  the  scene  was  laid  somewhere  in  the  neigh- 
bourhood of  Keighley  or  Hahfax.  Such  indeed 
was  the  setting  of  "  Wuthering  Heights,"  on  a 
wild    moorland-side,    overlooking  a  valley. 

But  there  is  further  evidence  concerning  this 
novel  of  Branwell's.  Another  friend  of  his, 
Mr.  Edward  Sloane,  of  Hahfax,  author  of  some 
"Essays,  Tales  and  Sketches  "  (1849),  declared  to 
Mr.  Dearden  that  Branwell  had  read  to  him,  portion 
by  portion,  the  novel  as  it  was  produced  at  the 
time,  insomuch  that  he  no  sooner  began  the 
perusal  of  "  Wuthering  Heights,"  when  published, 
than  he  was  able  to  anticipate  the  characters  and 
incidents  to  be  disclosed."* 

All  this  seems  convincing  testimony,  and  cannot 
by  any  species  of  critical  jugglery  be  got  out  of  the 
way.  Even  if  Branwell's  own  statement  were  to 
be  called  in  question,  it  would  be  ridiculous  to 
suppose  that  there  was  a  conspiracy  on  the  part 
of  several  witnesses  at  different  times  and  places 
to  assert  his  authorship.  These  men  were  of  known 
position  and  integrity,  Yorkshiremen  too,  with  the 
*  Quoted  "  Leylaiid,"  II,  p.   188. 












Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  149 

characteristic  Yorkshire  straightforwardness  of 
character,  and  hatred  of  fabrication.  It  is  im- 
possible they  can  all  have  been  mistaken,  and 
their  statements,  added  to  Mr  Grundy's  report  of 
Branwell 's  claim,  which  his  sister  verified,  form 
consecutive  links  in  a  strong  chain  of  evidence. 
In  ordinary  circumstances  this  evidence  would 
have  been  considered  sufficiently  substantial  to 
prove  Branwell's  case.  How  then,  it  may  be  asked, 
does  it  come  about  that  his  claim  has  lain  so  long 
in  abeyance  and  not  been  more  urgently  pressed  ? 

The  reason  is  not  far  to  seek.  The  first  point  is 
Mrs.  Gaskell's  impeachment  of  him,  directed,  as 
even  Miss  Sinclair  admits,  to  account  for  what 
seemed,  to  the  prudish  mid- Victorian  mind,  the 
"  coarseness "  of  "  Jane  Eyre."  To  explain 
Charlotte's  apparent  aberrations  from  the  path  of 
modesty,  it  had  to  be  revealed  that  she  had  a 
shocking  brother,  no  wonder  her  mind  dwelt  on 
such  ideas,  and  so  forth.  Therefore,  as  Miss 
Sinclair  admirably*  points  out,  "  Branwell  must 
be  made  as  iniquitious  as  it  is  possible  for  a  young 

*  Preface  to  Mrs.  Gaskell's  "  Life  of  Charlotte  Bronte." 

150  Patrick  Br anw ell  Bronte 

man  to  be."  Consequently,  when  the  glory  of  the 
book  began  to  dawn  on  its  more  discriminating 
readers,  it  was  felt  that  such  a  reprobate  as  Branwell 
should  not  be  credited  with  anything  so  fine.  It  was 
out  of  the  question  that  such  a  miserable  speci- 
men of  humanity  as  he  was  continually  repre- 
sented to  be  could  by  any  possibility  have  con- 
ceived and  carried  through  so  great  a  literary 
project.  Further,  Mr.  Dearden's  challenge  in 
the  above-quoted  evidence  was  not  available  till 
the  'sixties  and  'seventies,  when  Charlotte  was  dead ; 
and  Charlotte,  in  her  preface  to  the  1850  edition, 
had  given  the  stamp  of  her  authority  to  Emily 
Bronte's  authorship,  which  was  henceforth  accep- 
ted, though  rather  grudgingly,  by  many  of  the 
critics,  who  still  averred  it  could  never  have  been 
written  by  a  woman,  and  indeed  only  by  a  very 
exceptional  man.  To  many  it  resembled  the 
dream  of  an  opium-eater*  rather  than  a  tale  of 
human  flesh  and  blood. 

But,   with   Charlotte's  preface,  the  authorship 
seemed  settled.     Many  who  had  read  it  in  the 
*  Sir  Wemyss  Reid,  Lecture  on  the  Brontes. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  161 

original  edition  did  not  perhaps  see  this  ascription, 
and,  with  the  interest  attached  to  Emily's  Poems, 
she  began  to  be  regarded  as  something  very 
exceptional  from  the  common  rank  of  authors, 
capable  perhaps  of  so  daring  and,  on  the  face  of  it, 
so  improbable  a  flight  as  this.  For  her  "  Poems  " 
were  beginning  to  bring  her  fame.  Men  Hke 
Arnold  and  Swinburne  studied  her,  and  recorded 
their  verdict  upon  her  greatness.  The  great  men 
of  the  nineteenth  century  were  chivalrously 
sympathetic  to  feminine  genius.  They  remem- 
bered Miss  Burney,  Miss  Austen,  George  Eliot  and 
George  Sand,  and  here  now  in  their  midst  were 
these  wonderful  Brontes.  When  the  protests  of 
the  Yorkshire  friends  of  Branwell  appeared,  they 
probably  never  reached  the  great  literary  world 
of  London,  or,  if  they  did,  they  passed  unheeded, 
being  regarded  merely  as  the  personal  opinions  of 
local  provincials  who  did  not  count  in  the  world 
of  letters.  In  1883,  Miss  Mary  F.  Robinson 
(Madame  Duclaux),  pubhshed  her  "  Emily  Bronte," 
and  other  writers  have  followed  her.  Sir  Wemyss 
Reid  lectured  upon  the  Brontes,  and  especially 

152  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

upon  "  Wuthering  Heights."  With  all  this  great 
authority  behind  the  ascription  of  the  novel  to 
Emily's  pen,  how  was  it  possible  to  put  in  a  claim 
for  Branwell,  a  man  whose  reputation  had  been 
given  away  by  his  own  sister's  letters,  and  whose 
character  was  regarded  by  the  leading  men  of  the 
day  as  beneath  contempt. 

At  length,  however,  a  champion  came  forward 
for  poor  Branwell  in  the  person  of  Mr.  Francis 
A.  Leyland,  the  brother  of  Branwell's  friend,  the 
sculptor.  In  his  work  on  "  The  Bronte  Family," 
published  in  1886,  he  especially  took  up  the  study 
of  Branwell,  and  on  the  minds  of  many  thoughtful 
readers  must  have  left  the  impression  that  Char- 
lotte's brother  had  been  very  unfairly  dealt  with. 
But  his  account  is  very  diffidently  given,  and  his 
story  of  Branwell  is  so  mixed  up  with  the  history 
of  the  sisters  that  it  has  failed  to  carry  due  con- 
viction. Mr.  Shorter,  scenting  danger  to  his 
heroine,  attempted  no  specific  answer  to  Mr. 
Leyland's  theories  and  evidence,  but  tried  to 
minimize  any  possible  effect  by  the  indifferent 
remark :  "  it  is  a  dull  book,  readable  only  by  the 

Patrick  Br  a  nw  ell  Bronte  153 

Bronte  enthusiast."  Following  his  lead,  Miss 
Sinclair  adopted  the  same  attitude.  With  such 
redoubtable  adversaries  in  the  path  it  is  no  easy 
matter  to  overthrow  or  even  throw  doubts  upon 
the  popular  legend  of  the  authorship  of  "  Wuther- 
ing  Heights." 

The  first  reason  for  identifying  the  book  with 
that  novel  on  which  no  one  disputes  that  Branwell 
was  actually  engaged,  is  very  significant,  though 
indirect.  Just  at  the  time  when  it  ought  to  have 
been  completed,  this  strange,  wild  story,  "  Wuther- 
ing  Heights  " — a  story  answering  so  well  to  the 
tale  Branwell  was  basing  on  the  experience  of 
human  passions  as  tragic  as  those  of  "  Lear " 
or  "  Hamlet  " — suddenly  appears  from  apparently 
nowhere,  sheltered  under  the  aegis  of  the  literary 
pseudon}^!  of  "  Ellis  Bell."  Surely  this  is  more 
than  a  remarkable  coincidence  ? 

Of  Branwell's  capacity  to  write  "  Wuthering 
Heights  "  none  of  his  intimate  friends,  those  at 
least  who  were  acquainted  with  his  marked 
abilities,  had  any  doubt  whatever.  Miss  Sinclair 
dismisses  his  pretensions  with  a  flippancy  deplor- 

154  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

able  in  so  accomplished  a  writer.  Mrs.  Gaskeli 
acknowledges  that  he  "  was  a  boy  of  remarkable 
promise,  and,  in  some  ways,  of  extraordinary  pre- 
cocity of  talent."  Her  remark  has  already  been 
quoted :  "  He  was  very  clever,  no  doubt ;  per- 
haps, to  begin  with,  the  greatest  genius  in  this  rare 
family."*  Mr.  Francis  A.  Leyland,  who  had  met 
him  on  one  or  two  occasions,  and  who  heard  much 
of  him  from  his  brother  and  his  friends,  writes 
of  Branwell's  intellectual  powers  as  something 
quite  outstanding.  If  it  be  contended  that  he 
was  so  besotted  by  drink  that  his  natural  gifts 
were  squandered,  it  must  be  answered  that  there 
is  no  shred  of  evidence  to  support  this  theory. 
Branwell  was,  we  know,  often  intemperate,  but 
never,  Mr.  Leyland  insists,  habitually  so.  And 
when,  it  may  be  asked,  has  occasional  inebriety 
been  an  obstacle  to  literary  creation  ?  It  was 
assuredly  not  so  with  the  great  Elizabethans,  who 
were  notorious  for  their  joyous  drinking  bouts, 
nor  was  it  so  in  the  still  more  dissipated  days  of 
the  great  Augustans,  the  days  of  poor  Dick  Steele, 
*  "  Life,"  p.  86. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  155 

of  Sheridan  and  his  boon  companions,  nor  has  it 
proved  so  in  instances  well  known  in  our  own  day. 
But  to  return  to  Branwell :  it  is  incontestable 
that  up  to  the  autumn  of  1845,  when  he  was  busy 
with  his  novel,  he  was  not  habitually  intemperate. 
Apart  from  the  breakdown  following  the  announce- 
ment of  his  dismissal  from  Thorpe  Green,  he  was 
steadily  employed  in  literary  creation.  He  was, 
as  he  declares  to  Leyland,  "  trying  his  ut- 

We  have,  on  the  contrary,  evidence  from  his 
personal  friends  that  he  was  at  this  time  at  the 
meridian  of  his  powers.  But  he  was  by  nature 
diffident  and  modest,  and  probably,  like  more  than 
one  genius  who  has  preceded  or  followed  him, 
he  had  no  idea  how  exceptional  those  powers  were, 
both  for  masterly  observation  and  the  recording 
of  passionate  emotion.  That  these  powers  had 
a  large  field  for  expression  in  the  novel  he  was 
writing  is  evident  from  the  account  of  it  we  have 
read  in  his  letter  to  Leyland  :  it  was  an  attempt 
to  express  "  a  vivid  picture  of  human  feelings  for 
good  and  evil,"  a  picture  that  should  be  drawn 

156  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

realistically  in  the  great  literary  school  of  Smollett 
or  Fielding. 

Let  us  now  turn  to  the  internal  evidence  of  the 
book  itself,  and  examine  how  far  and  in  what 
respects  it  shows  signs  of  distinctively  masculine 
authorship,  and  of  Branwell 's  authorship  in 
particular.  The  very  character  of  this  terrible 
tale  should  convince  any  thoughtful  or  closelj^ 
observant  reader  that  no  woman's  hand  ever  penned 
"  Wuthering  Heights."  Such,  indeed,  was  the 
universal  opinion  of  the  Press  when  it  first  ap- 
peared, and  it  may  yet  return  to  that  opinion. 
The  internal  evidence  is  all  against  a  woman's 
authorship,  for  over  every  page  there  hangs 
an  unmistakable  air  of  masculinity  that  cannot 
be  evaded.  If  the  story  takes  on  a  feminine 
aspect  at  times  it  is  merely  because  the  recital 
is  for  the  time  being  put  in  the  mouth  of  the  old 
housekeeper,  Mrs.  Dean  ;  and,  in  respect  to  the 
part  dealing  with  the  upbringing  of  the  younger 
Catharine,  I  willingly  concede  that  Emily  Bronte 
may  have  helped  considerably.  But  the  whole 
conception  of  the  story  is,  from  start  to  finish, 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  157 

a  man's,  particularly  so  whenever  Mr.  Lockwood 
is  represented  as  dealing  directly  with  the  story 
and  nowhere  is  this  more  evident  than  in  the  first 
two  or  three  chapters.  Before  examining  these 
pages  I  would  draw  the  reader's  attention  to  the 
description  of  Thrush  Cross  Grange,  as  given  by 
young  Heathcliff,  who  had,  of  course,  never  seen 
any  place  more  civilized  than  the  Heights  Farm. 
"  Ah  !  it  was  beautiful,"  he  exclaims,  "  a  splendid 
place  carpeted  with  crimson,  and  crimson-covered 
chairs  and  tables,  and  a  pure  white  ceiling  bordered 
by  gold,  a  shower  of  glass  drops  hanging  in  silver 
chains  from  the  centre  and  shimmering  with 
little  soft  tapers."  Now  this  description  is  so 
detailed  that  it  must  have  been  copied  from  a 
house  visited  by  the  writer.  Branwell  was  well 
acquainted  with  such  a  drawing-room  at  Thorp 
Green,  and  it  should  also  be  noticed  as  a  curious 
coincidence  that  the  names  of  both  these  houses 
begin  with  the  same  two  letters,  so  that  either 

of  them  might  be  blanked  as  Th Gr . 

Searching  closely  for  minuter  traces  of  masculine 
authorship,   even   in   the   first   chapter  we  come 

158  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

across  tiny  pieces  of  evidence  pointing  to  the  fact 
that  the  writer  was  not  only  a  man  but  a  scholar. 
Literally  on  the  very  threshold  not  merely  of  the 
story,  but  of  the  house  itself,  we  meet  with  a 
Latin  word  which  would  scarcely  be  known  to  any- 
one not  conversant  with  his  Livy  or  his  Virgil :     I 
refer  to  the  word  "  penetralium."     I  do  not  think 
Emily  Bronte  knew  much  Latin,  if  any.     Assuredly 
she  was  not  an  advanced  student  in  the  classics, 
as    we    know    Branwell    was.     Only    a    classical 
scholar  would  have  used  the  term  to  signify  the 
interior  of  the  house  he  was  about  to  enter.     Other 
Latin  or  classical  allusions  are  :   the  "  indigenae,"* 
referring  to  the  surly  natives  of  the  country-side, 
and  Catharine  Earnshaw's  remark  that  those  who 
attempted  to  separate  her  from  Heathcliff  would 
"  meet  the  fate  of  Milo  !  "f     Which  "  Milo  "  is 
here  referred  to  is  not  clear,  but  the  athlete  of 
Crotona  was  probably  in  the  author's  mind.     The 
allusion  would  be  natural  to  a  student  of  Ovid  or 
Cicero,  and  familiar  enough  to  Branwell,  though 
not,   I  submit,   to  Emily  Bronte,  who  was  not 

*  "  Wuthering    Heights,"    (Cassell)  Chap.  IV.,  p.  47. 
t  ib.  p.  280. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  159 

"  learned,"  so  Charlotte  tells  us.  We  know  from 
Mr.  Grundy  how  fond  Branwell  was  of  introducing 
Greek,  Latin  or  French  words  into  his  correspond- 
ence. Some  other  masculine  expressions  occur 
in  the  first  chapters  which  no  gentlewoman  of 
the  prim  and  prudish  'forties  would  have  dreamt 
of  using  :  the  reference  to  the  figures  of  Loves  or 
Cupids  over  the  doorway  as  "  shameless  little 
boys  "  ;  the  account  of  the  "  ruffianly  bitch  " 
who  tore  Lockwood's  "  heels  and  coat-laps " ; 
the  term  applied  by  Heathcliff  to  Isabella  Linton — 
"  pitiful,  slavish,  mean-minded  brack "  ;  the 
curious  exclamation  of  Catharine  Linton,  "  Oh  ! 
I'm  tired — I'm  stalled,  Hareton  !  "* 

The  curses,  the  brutal  language,  Heathcliff's 
outbursts  about  "  painting  the  house-front  with 
Hindley's  blood  !  "  ;  the  reference  to  "  a  beast 
of  a  servant,"  Mrs.  Dean's  remark,  "  I  could  not 
half  tell  what  an  infernal  house  we  had  "  ;  all  these 
could  never  have  been  introduced  into  a  first 
novel  by  a  quiet,  reserved  young  woman  like 
Emily  Bronte.    These  coarse  and  wild  expressions 

*  ib.  p.  280. 

160  Patrick  Br anw ell  Bronte 

were  written  by  a  man  who  had  heard  many  of 
them  used,  for  they  flow  naturally  from  the  mouths 
of  his  characters. 

There  are  also  some  touches  in  the  meditations 
of  Mr.  Lockwood  which  particularly  suggest 
Branwell's  personal  experiences,  and  which  would 
never  occur  to  a  woman-writer ;  the  passage 
referring  to  Lockwood's  little  adventure  at  the 
"  seaside,"  where  he  was  "  thrown  into  the 
company  of  a  most  fascinating  creature,"  and, 
continues  the  description,  "  a  real  goddess  in  my 
eyes,  as  long  as  she  took  notice  of  me.  I  '  never 
told  my  love  '  vocally  ;  still,  if  looks  have  language, 
the  merest  idiot  might  have  guessed  I  was  over 
head  and  ears,  she  understood  me  at  last,  and 
looked  a  return,  the  sweetest  of  all  imaginable 
looks.  And  what  did  I  do  ?  I  confess  it  with 
shame — shrunk  icily  into  myself  like  a  snail ; 
at  every  glance  retired  colder  and  farther,  till 
finally  the  poor  innocent  was  led  to  doubt  her  own 
senses,  and,  overwhelmed  with  confusion  at  her 
supposed  mistake,  persuaded  her  mamma  to 
decamp.     By  this  curious  turn  of  disposition  I 

Patrick  Branivell  Bronte  161 

have  gained  the  reputation  of  dehberate  heartless- 
ness ;  how  undeserved,  I  alone  can  appreciate."* 
Now,  could  this  have  been  written  by  a  woman : 
more  than  this,  can  anyone  imagine  it  to  have 
been  written  by  Emily  Bronte  ?  Other  passages 
pointedly  suggest  Branwell's  authorship ;  the 
description  of  the  class  of  yeoman  farmer,  with 
many  of  whom  he  was  undoubtedly  acquainted, 
"  with  a  stubborn  countenance,  and  stalwart 
limbs  set  out  to  advantage  in  knee-breeches  and 
gaiters.  Such  an  individual  seated  in  his  arm-chair, 
his  mug  of  ale  frothing  on  the  round  table  before 
him,  is  to  be  seen  in  any  circuit  of  five  or  six  miles 
among  these  hills,  if  you  go  at  the  right  time  after 

Branwell  knew  the  kind  of  men  well,  and  had  often 
visited  them  at  the  congenial  hour,  when  he  was 
strolling  across  the  moors  around  Haworth.  One 
feels  this  touch  is  direct  from  his  hand.  And 
what  more  likely  than  that,  on  some  such  visit,  he 
had  been  overtaken  by  one  of  the  pitiless  snow- 
storms he  here  so  graphically  describes,  and  had 

*  "  Wuthering  Heights,"  p.  24.         t   '^•.  P-  23. 


162  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

to  wade  home,  like  Mr.  Lockwood,  "  sinking  up 
to  the  neck  in  snow,  a  predicament  which  only 
those  who  have  experienced  it  can  appreciate."* 
Who  but  one  famihar  with  the  appliances  of  a 
farm  would  have  referred  to  Hindley  Earnshaw, 
threatening  Heathcliff  with  "  an  iron  weight 
used  for  weighing  potatoes  and  hay  "  ? 

It  is  noticeable  how  the  writer  dallies — as  it 
were — ^with  the  subject  of  consumption,  just  as 
Branwell  does  in  his  "  Poems  to  Caroline."  This 
dwelling  on  the  marks  of  death  and  decay  was  a 
very  marked  characteristic  of  Branwell's  work, 
but  we  can  hardly  imagine  Emily  lingering  over 
the  description  of  disease,  she  who  scorned  its 
very  existence,  and  utterly  refused  to  acknow- 
ledge herself  ill  when  to  the  eyes  of  others  she  was 
visibly  dying. 

One  very  marked  feature  of  the  book  is  its 
almost  vicious  attack  upon  the  canting  hypocrisy 
of  the  extreme  Methodists.  The  scathing  satire 
on  the  interminable  discourses  of  these  Ranters, 
and  their  endless  personal  exhortations,  from 
*  "Wuthering  Heights,"  p.  46. 

Patrick  Br anwell  Bronte  163 

which  Branwcll  may  often  have  been  the 
victim,  occupies  a  couple  of  pages  in  the  third 
chapter.  The  subject  is  raised  in  Mr.  Lockwood's 
dream,  induced  by  the  perusal  of  Catharine 
Earnshaw's  books,  one  of  which  is  entitled  "  A 
Pious  Discourse  delivered  by  the  Reverend  Jabez 
Branderham,  in  the  Chapel  of  Gimmerden  Sough." 
"  In  my  dream,  Jabes  had  a  full  and  attentive 
congregation ;  and  he  preached — good  God ! 
what  a  sermon  :  divided  into  four  hundred  and 
ninety  parts,  each  fully  equal  to  an  ordinary 
address  from  the  pulpit,  and  each  discussing  a 
separate  sin.  Where  he  searched  for  them  I 
cannot  tell.  He  had  his  private  manner  of  inter- 
preting the  phrase,  and  it  seemed  necessary  the 
brother  should  sin  different  sins  on  every  occasion. 
Oh,  how  weary  I  grew.  How  I  writhed  and  yawned, 
and  nodded  and  revived  !  How  I  pinched  and 
pricked  myself,  and  rubbed  my  eyes,  and  stood  up, 
and  sat  down  again,  and  nudged  Joseph  to  inform 
me  if  he  would  ever  have  done."*  But  I  need 
not  quote  further,  the  readers  will  be  familiar 
*  "  Wuthering  Heights,"  p.  39. 

164  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

with  the  most  vivid  parody  of  a  Ranter's  sermon 
to  be  found  in  our  language. 

Yet  another  feature  of  the  work  is  the  grim 
humour  inspiring  the  writer's  satirical  sketch  of 
Joseph.  An  illustration  of  this  occurs  almost  in 
the  first  page,  in  the  comment  made  by  Lockwood 
upon  Joseph's  ejaculation,  "  The  Lord  help  us  !  " 
while  "  looking  meantime  in  my  face  so  sourly 
that  I  charitably  conjectured  he  must  have  need 
of  Divine  aid  to  digest  his  dinner."  Again, 
another  touch  is  given  us  in  the  description  of  the 
"  immense  consolation  "  Joseph  derived  from  the 
thought  that,  although  Hareton's  soul  was  destined 
to  perdition,  "  Heathcliff  must  answer  for  it," 
whereby  the  ultimate  avenging  would  be  at 
Heathcliff's  expense  :  this  saturnine  humour  is 
not  a  woman's,  least  of  all  Emily's. 

The  whole  delineation  of  Joseph  is  indeed  so 
obviously  studied  from  the  life,  built  up  from  a 
model  with  which  the  writer  was  intimately 
acquainted,  created  almost  with  real  joy  as  if  to 
work  off  some  personal  grudge  against  a  person 
of  the  ranting,  Methodist  type,  from  whose  pious 

Patrick  Bramvell  Bronte  165 

adjurations  the  writer  had  perhaps  suffered, 
that  it  may  be  taken  as  a  notable  instance  of 
Branwell  Bronte's  known  power  of  caricature. 
How  well  he  was  able  to  hit  off,  in  a  few  lines, 
certain  rough  types  of  character  is  illustrated 
for  us  quite  remarkably  in  a  letter  he  wrote  in  the 
beginning  of  1840  and  to  which  I  have  already 
referred.  This  letter  has  been  quoted,  especially 
by  Miss  Robinson,  as  a  sign  of  Branwell's  early 
depravity,  but  I  propose  to  quote  it  here  for  a 
quite  different  purpose.  Written  by  a  boy  of 
twenty-one  in  a  roystering  vein  of  merriment, 
never  intended  to  be  seen  by  any  other  than 
his  old  friend,  John  Brown,  the  sexton,  to  whom 
it  was  addressed,  it  runs  as  follows : 

March  13/A,  1840. 
Old  Knave  of  Trumps, 

Don't  think  I  have  forgotten  you,  though  I 
have  delayed  so  long  in  writing  to  you.  It  was 
my  purpose  to  send  you  a  yarn  as  soon  as  I  could 
find  materials  to  spin  one  with,  and  it  is  only 

166  Patrick  Br anw ell  Bronte 

just  now  that  I  have  had  time  to  turn  myself 
round  and  know  where  I  am.  If  you  saw  me 
now,  you  would  not  know  me,  and  you  would 
laugh  to  hear  the  character  the  people  give  me. 
Oh,  the  falsehood  and  hypocrisy  of  this  world  ! 
I  am  fixed  in  a  little  retired  town  by  the  sea- 
shore, among  wild  woody  hills  that  rise  round 
me — huge,  rocky,  and  capped  with  clouds.  My 
employer  is  a  retired  county  magistrate,  a  large 
landowner,  and  of  a  right  hearty  and  generous 
disposition.  His  wife  is  a  quiet,  silent,  and 
amiable  woman,  and  his  two  sons  are  fine,  spirited 
lads.  My  landlord  is  a  respectable  surgeon,  and 
six  days  out  of  seven  is  as  drunk  as  a  lord !  His 
wife  is  a  bustling,  chattering,  kind-hearted  soul ; 
and  his  daughter  ! — oh  !  death  and  damnation  ! 
Well,  what  am  I  ?  That  is,  what  do  they  think 
I  am  ?  A  most  calm,  sedate,  sober,  abstemious, 
patient,  mild-hearted,  virtuous,  gentlemanly  philos- 
opher,— the  picture  of  good  works,  and  the 
treasure-house  of  religious  thought.  Cards  are 
shuffled  under  the  table-cloth,  glasses  are  thrust 
into  the  cupboard,  if  I  enter  the  room.     I  take 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  167 

neither  spirits,  wine  or  malt  liquors.  I  dress  in 
black,  and  smile  like  a  saint  or  martyr.  Every- 
body says,  '  What  a  good  young  gentleman  is 
Mr.  Postlethwaite's  tutor !  '  This  is  a  fact,  as  I 
am  a  living  soul,  and  right  comfortably  do  I  laugh 
at  them.  I  mean  to  continue  in  their  good 
opinion.  I  took  a  half-year's  farewell  of  old 
friend  whiskey  at  Kendal  on  the  night  after  I 
left.  There  was  a  party  of  gentlemen  at  the 
Royal  Hotel,  and  I  joined  them.  We  ordered 
in  supper  and  whiskey-toddy  as  '  hot  as  hell '  ! 
They  thought  I  was  a  physician,  and  put  me  in 
the  chair.  I  gave  sundry  toasts,  that  were  washed 
down  at  the  same  time,  till  the  room  spun  round, 
and  the  candles  danced  in  our  eyes.  One  of  the 
guests  was  a  respectable  old  gentleman  with 
powdered  hair,  rosy  cheeks,  fat  paunch  and 
ringed  fingers.  He  gave  '  The  Ladies '  ,  .  . 
after  which  he  brayed  off  with  a  speech  ;  and  in 
two  minutes,  in  the  middle  of  a  sentence,  he 
stopped,  wiped  his  head,  looked  wildly  round, 
stammered,  coughed,  stopped  again,  and  called 
for  his  slippers.     The  waiter  helped  him  to  bed. 

168  Patrick  Br anw ell  Bronte 

Next  a  tall  Irish  squire  and  a  native  of  the  land 
of  Israel  began  to  quarrel  about  their  countries  ; 
and,  in  the  warmth  of  argument,  discharged  their 
glasses  each  at  his  neighbour's  throat  instead  of 
his  own.  I  recommended  bleeding,  purging  and 
blistering  ;  but  they  administered  each  other  a 
real  '  Jem  Warder,'  so  I  flung  m}-  tumbler  on  the 
floor  too,  and  swore  I'd  join  '  Old  Ireland !  '  A 
regular  rumpus  ensued,  but  we  were  tamed  at 
last.  I  found  myself  in  bed  next  morning,  with 
a  bottle  of  porter,  a  glass  and  a  corkscrew  beside 
me.  Since  then  I  have  not  tasted  anything 
stronger  than  milk-and-water,  nor,  I  hope,  shall, 
till  I  return  at  midsummer  ;  when  we  will  see 
about  it.  I  am  getting  as  fat  as  Prince  WiUiam 
at  Springhead,  and  as  godly  as  his  friend.  Parson 
Winterbotham.  My  hand  shakes  no  longer,  I 
ride  to  the  banker's  at  Ulverston  with  Mr.  Postle- 
thwaite,  and  sit  drinking  tea,  and  talking  scandal 
with  old  ladies.  As  to  the  young  ones !  I  have 
one  sitting  by  me  just  now — fair-faced,  blue-eyed, 
dark-haired,  sweet  eighteen — she  httle  thinks 
the  devil  is  so  near  her ! 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  169 

I  was  delighted  to  see  thy  note,  old  squire, 
but  I  do  not  understand  one  sentence — you  will 
perhaps  know  what  I  mean.  .  .  .  How  are 
all  about  you  ?  I  long  to  see  and  hear  them  again. 
How  is   '  The   Devil's  Thumb,'   whom  men   call 

,  and  the  '  Devil  in  Mourning,'  whom  they 

call .     How   are   ,   and  ,    and 

the  Doctor  ;  and  him  who  will  be  used  as  the 
tongs  of  hell — he  whose  eyes  Satan  looks  out  of, 

as  from  windows — I  mean ,  esquire  ?     How 

are  little   ,   — '  Longshanks,'   ,    and 

the  rest  of  them  ?  Are  they  married,  buried, 
devilled,  and  damned  ?  \Vlien  I  come  I'll  give 
them  a  good  squeeze  of  the  hand  ;  till  then,  I  am 
too  godly  for  them  to  think  of.  That  bow- 
legged  devil  used  to  ask  me  impertinent  questions 
which  I  answered  him  in  kind.  Beelzebub  will 
make  of  him  a  walking-stick !  Keep  to  thy 
teetotahsm,  old  squire,  till  I  return  ;  it  will  mend 
thy  body.  ,  ,  .  Does  '  Little  Nosey '  think  I 
have  forgotten  him  ?  No,  by  Jupiter !  nor  his 
clock  either.  I'll  send  him  a  remembrancer  some 
of  these    days !     But    I    must    talk    to    someone 

170  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

prettier     than    thee ;     so    goodnight,     old    boy, 


Beheve  me  thine. 

The  Philosopher. 

Write  directly.  Of  course  you  won't  show  this 
letter ;  and,  for  Heaven's  sake,  blot  out  all  the 
lines  scored  with  red  ink."* 

This  letter,  written  in  the  vein  of  Prince  Hal  to 
his  jolly  old  boon-companion  Falstaff,  is  merely 
a  natural  outburst  of  youth  and  exceeding  high 
spirits,  compelled  for  the  sake  of  earning  a  stipend 
to  don  the  decorous  garb  of  the  staid  young 
tutor.  Branwell,  as  he  says  more  than  once, 
hated  hypocrisy :  he  disliked  having  to  be  other 
than  he  naturally  was,  just  as  his  sisters  suffered 
from  having  to  adopt  the  irksome  work  of  gover- 
nessing.  He  was  very  young,  and  felt  he  must 
let  himself  "  go  "  to  somebody,  hence  this  letter, 
as  good  as  anything  in  Smollett,  Dickens  or 
Fielding,  an  example  of  wild,  rollicking,  natural 
human  spirits  trying  to  escape  from  the  toils  of 
propriety  and  unnatural  decorum. 

♦  "  Leyland,"  I.,  p.  255-9. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  1 7 1 

It  is  amazing  that  readers  of  this  racy  and 
forcible  epistle  have  failed  to  discover  in  it  a  strong 
vein  of  that  rich  but  sardonic  humour,  that  head- 
long torrent  of  denunciation  which  pervades  the 
pages  of  "  Wuthering  Heights."  In  his  con- 
tempt for  hypocrisy  and  irritation  at  the  med- 
dlesome impertinence  of  some  "  bow-legged  devil  " 
(possibly  some  local  ranting  Dissenter,  whose 
sermonizing  was  particularly  distasteful)  lies  the 
germ  of  the  subsequent  delineation  of  Joseph,  in 
whose  character  the  author  revels  with  a  kind  of 
triumphant  maliciousness  for  which  no  woman 
could  have  had  even  a  faint  incentive. 

Of  the  remaining  references  in  the  letter  we  can 
identify  none,  but  there  is  one  of  which  we  must 
take  special  notice,  inasmuch  as  it  furnishes 
decided  evidence  for  Branwell's  authorship.  The 
reference  I  mean  is  to  him  "  who  will  be  used  as 
the  tongs  of  hell — he  whose  eyes  Satan  looks  out 
of,  as  from  windows,  I  mean  esquire  ? 

It  is  obvious  that  even  at  this  date — 1840 — 
Branwell  Bronte's  imagination  was  playing  round 
some   fierce,    lowering,    gloomy   personality   with 

172  Patrick  Branivell  Bronte 

whom  he  was  well  acquainted  and  who  was  in 
this  letter  the  object  of  this  damning  allusion. 
Now  if  we  recall  his  letter  to  Leyland.  already 
quoted,  we  remember  that  the  project  of  this 
novel  was  the  outcome  of  observations  and  re- 
flections made  during  the  previous  half-dozen 
years,  which  would  bring  us  back  to  the  years 
1839-40,  when  this  letter  to  John  Brown  was 
written.  The  project  was  but  dimly  outhned  in 
his  mind  as  yet,  but  with  the  passing  years  the 
conception  began  to  take  shape,  until,  during 
his  two  years'  residence  at  Thorp  Green,  the  hot 
flame  of  his  passion  for  another  man's  wife  vita- 
lized and  brought  it  forth  in  the  half-human, 
half-demon  shape  we  know  as  Heathchff,  con- 
cerning whose  eyes  the  very  same  simile  is  used : 
"  that  couple  of  black  fiends,  so  deeply  buried 
who  never  open  their  windows  boldly,  but  lurk 
glinting  under  them  like  devil's  spies,"  or  else- 
where, where  Isabella  says :  "  The  clouded  windows 
of  hell  flashed  a  moment  towards  me  :  the  fiend 
which  usually  looked  out,  however,  was  so  dimmed 
and  drowned  that  I  did  not  fear  to  hazard  another 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  173 

sound  of  derision."  Viewed  from  this  stand- 
point, the  importance  of  this  letter  can  scarcely 
be  overrated,  for  it  displays  not  merely  the 
torrential  force  of  Branwell's  opinions  upon 
certain  hostile  personalities,  but  it  reveals  the 
original  moulds  already  prepared  in  his  mind, 
whence  some  of  the  rough  casts  for  the  characters 
in  his  projected  novel  were  taken. 

This  view  is  supported  by  the  opinion  of  Mr. 
Leyland,  a  dispassionate  and  fair-minded  man, 
writing  from  a  close  personal  acquaintance  with 
the  friends  of  Branwell  Bronte.  "  Those  who  have 
heard  fall  from  the  lips  of  Branwell  Bronte — and 
they  are  few  now — all  those  weird  stories,  strange 
imaginings,  and  vivid  and  brilliant  disquisitions 
on  the  life  of  the  people  of  the  West  Riding,  will 
recognize  that  there  was  at  least  no  opposition 
between  the  tendency  of  his  thoughts  and  those 
of  the  author  of  '  Wuthering  Heights.'  As  to 
special  points  in  the  story,  it  may  be  said  that 
Branwell  Bronte  had  tasted  most  of  the  passions, 
weaknesses  and  emotions  there  depicted ;  had 
loved   in   frenzied  delusion   as   Heathcliff  loved ; 

174  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

as  with  Hindley  Earnshaw,  too,  in  the  pain  of 
loss  when  his  ship  struck ;  the  captain  abandoned 
his  post ;  and  the  crew,  instead  of  trying  to  save 
her,  rushed  into  riot  and  confusion,  leaving  no 
hope  for  their  luckless  vessel.  He  had  too,  indeed, 
manifested  much  of  the  doating  folly  of  the  un- 
happy master  of  the  '  Heights '  ;  and  finally, 
there  is  no  doubt  that  he  possessed,  nevertheless, 
almost  as  much  force  of  character,  determination, 
and  energy  as  Heathcliff  himself."* 

Sir  Wemyss  Reid — quite  unwittingly,  because 
he  was  counsel  engaged  on  the  side  of  Emily — 
gives  evidence  which  confirms  Mr.  Leyland's 
view  and  my  own.  The  lecturer's  contention  is 
that  Branwell  provided  the  study  for  his  sister's 
work,  a  suggestion  which  has  been  shown,  I  hope, 
to  be  an  outrage  on  all  we  know  of  Emily  Bronte. 
But  his  contention  that  the  delineation  of  Heath- 
cliff's  passion  for  another  man's  wife  found  its 
counterpart  in  Branwell's  experiences  is  valuable 
evidence  for  his  authorship  of  the  work,  "  Whole 
pages  of  the  story,"  he  says,  "  are  filled  with  the 
*  "  Leyland,   II,  p.   192-193. 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  175 

ravings  and  ragings  of  the  villain  against  the  man 
whose  life  stands  between  him  and  the  woman  he 
loves.  Similar  ravings  are  to  be  found  in  all  the 
letters  of  BranweU  Bronte  written  at  this  period 
of  his  career  ;  and  w^e  may  be  sure  that  similar 
ravings  were  always  on  his  lips,  as  moody  and 
more  than  haJf  mad,  he  wandered  about  the 
rooms  of  the  parsonage  at  Haworth."*  This 
last  assertion,  totally  unsupported  by  evidence, 
may  be  left  out  of  account.  It  is  just  the  kind  of 
gratuitious  suggestion,  with  no  foundation  in  fact, 
that  is  so  scandalously  and  seditiously  suppUed 
by  the  detractors  of  Branwell  Bronte,  and  which, 
alas  !  has  obtained  credence  simply  through  its 

But,  to  continue  our  quotation  :  "  Nay,"  he 
goes  on  to  say,  "  I  have  found  striking  verbal 
coincidences  between  Branwell's  own  language 
and  passages  in  '  Wuthering  Heights.'  In  one 
of  his  own  letters  there  are  these  words  in  reference 
to  the  object  of  his  passion  :  '  My  own  life  without 
her  will  be  hell.     What  can  the  so-cadled  love  of 

*  Quoted  "  Leyland,"  II,  p.   193-4. 

176  Patrick  Br anivell  Bronte 

her  wretched,  sickly  husband  be  to  her  compared 
with  mine  ?  '  Now,"  continues  Sir  Wemyss, 
"  turn  to  '  Wuthering  Heights,'  and  you  will  read 
these  words  :  '  Two  words  would  comprehend  my 
future — death  and  hell :  existence  after  losing 
her  would  be  hell.  Yet  I  was  a  fool  to  fancy  for 
a  moment  that  she  valued  Edgar  Linton's  attach- 
ment more  than  mine.  If  he  loved  with  all  the 
powers  of  his  puny  being,  he  couldn't  love  as  much 
in  eighty  years  as  I  could  in  a  day.'  "  Sir  Wemyss 
Reid  has  reaUy  proved  too  much,  and  his  damag- 
ing admissions  not  only  give  his  case  away,  but 
greatly  strengthen  the  case  for  Branwell's  author- 
ship from  the  resemblance  between  Heathcliff's 
expression  of  his  passion  and  Branwell's  own 

Mr.  Clement  Shorter  has  apologized  for  taking 
any  notice  of  Branwell  at  all,  adducing  the  reason 
that  he  was  obliged  to  do  so  in  the  face  of  his 
"  preposterous  statement  that  he  wrote  '  Wuther- 
ing Heights.'  "  But  with  all  the  evidence  we  have 
of  Branwell's  own  completion  of  the  first  volume 
of  a  novel  which  it  would  require  hardihood  to 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  177 

publish  ;  of  the  fact  that  he  was  engaged  on  it 
just  at  the  time  of  his  great  mental  struggle  with 
the  passion  that  devastated  him ;  that  his  suffer- 
ings are,  even  by  a  hostile  critic,  admitted  to  be 
just  such  as  are  depicted  in  the  soul  of  Heath- 
cliff  ;  that  his  powers  of  caricature  and  delineation 
of  character  were  great ;  that  he  was,  at  the  time 
when  he  began  his  novel,  full  of  literary  ambition 
and  at  the  zenith  of  his  powers  which,  by  all 
contemporary  accounts,  were  very  uncommon : 
what,  it  may  be  asked,  was  there  "  preposterous  " 
in  such  a  statement  ? 

Anyone  possessed  of  unprejudiced  judgment 
must  see  that  the  book  is  the  work  of  one  who 
has  actually  gone  through  the  "  hell  "  which  was 
slowly  consuming  Heathcliff ;  of  one  who,  as 
Branwell  Bronte  wrote  to  Leyland,  was  writing 
the  book  to  while  away  his  torments.  To  have 
produced  the  work  under  such  conditions  would 
be  far  from  "  preposterous " ;  would,  on  the 
contrary,  be  extremely  natural.  The  truly  "  pre- 
posterous "  theory  is  that  Emily  Bronte  wrote  it. 

There   still   remains    the   problem   as    to   why 


178  Patrick  Br  unwell  Bronte 

Branwell  did  not  come  boldly  forward  as  the 
author  of  "  Wuthering  Heights "  in  his  own 
remaining  lifetime.  To  this  it  may  be  answered 
that,  as  the  evidence  already  quoted  proves,  he 
did  so  come  forward  among  his  most  intimate 
friends,  who  probably  regarded  "  Ellis  Bell  "  as 
his  nom  de  plume,  and  never  associated  it  with 
Emily  Bronte.  Also  we  have  seen  that  in  the 
presence  of  Mr.  Grundy,  and  before  his  sister 
Emily,  he  did  claim  the  greater  portion  of  the 
novel  as  his  own  work.  I  have  already  tried  to 
show  that  his  pecuhar  position  with  regard  to 
Charlotte  was  a  sufficient  barrier  to  any  open 
declaration  of  authorship  among  his  own  family ; 
and  also  we  have  to  remember  that,  since  it  was 
written  just  at  the  time  of  Branwell's  love  story, 
he  would  naturally  shrink  from  any  open  acknow- 
ledgment of  having  portrayed  his  unhappy 
infatuation  for  a  woman  well  known  in  the  county, 
whose  family  would  have  been  greatly  incensed 
at  any  possible  identification  that  might  ensue. 

Of   these    obstacles    to   open    acknowledgment 
the  chief  was  Charlotte's  complete  estrangement 

Patrick  Branwell  Bro7ite  179 

from  her  brother.  Her  entire  ignorance  of  any 
collaboration  between  BranweU  and  Emily  led  her 
to  assert  in  later  years  that  her  brother  knew 
nothing  of  his  sisters'  work. 

There  is  a  further  point  in  connection  with 
Branwell's  concealment  of  his  authorship  from 
the  family.  We  have  to  remember  that  for  a 
year  and  a  half,  according  to  Charlotte,  the  MS. 
of  "  Wuthering  Heights  "  went  the  round  of  the 
publishing  houses,  only  to  meet  with  abrupt  and 
ignominious  dismissal,  and  when  at  last  in  Septem- 
ber, 1847,  it  was  finally  accepted  by  Mr.  Newby, 
another  four  months  elapsed  before  he  issued  it. 
By  this  time  Branwell  had  lost  all  interest  in  the 
work.  His  own  health  was  terribly  shattered, 
he  was  fast  sinking  into  hopeless  physical  decline  ; 
we  know  from  the  letter  he  wrote  to  Leyland 
at  the  close  of  1847,  or  the  opening  of  1848,  that 
he  was  at  the  end  of  everything,  and  had  long 
since  resigned  any  literary  or  other  ambition. 
After  the  novel  was  pubhshed,  it  met  with  little 
but  contumely  from  the  press,  and  the  notices 
were  for  the  most  part  so  damaging  to  the  author, 

1 80  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

who  was  taken  to  be  a  rough  and  brutal  man, 
that  there  was  less  temptation  than  ever  for  the 
author  to  claim  his  offspring.  Indeed,  had  Emily 
revealed  the  truth,  she  would  have  set  the  seal 
on  Charlotte's  condemnation  of  their  brother, 
and  perhaps  have  called  public  attention  to  his 
unhappy  faihngs.  So  Emily  held  her  peace, 
as  she  was  so  well  capable  of  doing. 

This,  then,  is  the  conclusion  of  the  whole  matter. 
We  are  impressed  by  the  brave,  hopeful  tone  of 
Emily's  letters  to  Anne,  by  her  obvious  desire  to 
help  everyone,  including  Branwell,  and  I  submit 
with  much  earnestness  that  this  was  not  the  woman 
who  could  concoct  in  secret  and  launch  into  the 
world  a  novel  portraying  the  absolutely  diabolical 
scheme  of  vengeance  developed  by  the  author  of 
"  Wuthering  Heights,"  a  novel  not  merely  tinged 
but  saturated  with  the  hopelessness  of  misery, 
ruin  and  despair.  All  Emily's  efforts  were  to 
leave  the  world  better  than  she  found  it,  but 
Branwell's  case  and  character  was  totally  different. 
He  had  lived  with  forlorn  hopes  amid  the  rough 
and  tumble  of  the  world  immediately  around  him, 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  181 

in  the  village,  in  and  out  of  the  farmsteads,  on  the 
railway,  at  Bradford,  Halifax,  and  all  about  this 
moorland  neighbourhood,  ever  since  he  came  to 
manhood  ;  and,  as  he  tells  Leyland,  he  had  for 
half  a  dozen  years  back  been  pondering  on  all 
these  experiences  until  he  had  decided  to  embody 
them  in  a  novel.  He  had  his  vindictive  feelings, 
his  scores  to  pay  off  upon  some  old  tormenting 
hypocrite,  no  doubt,  and  he  gave  us  Joseph ; 
he  had  his  hate  of  Mr.  Robinson  and  his  passionate 
love  for  his  wife  and,  "  veiled "  by  different 
characters  too  far  removed  from  reality  to  be 
recognizable,  he  gave  his  sufferings  to  the  world 
under  the  guise  of  fiction.  Having  known  the  dark 
passions  of  defeated  love,  he  gave  us  Heathcliff ; 
having  seen  men  the  victims  of  temptation, 
despair  and  drink,  he  gave  us  Hindley  Earnshaw, 
I  have  tried  to  show  how  completely  masculine  is 
the  tone,  nay,  the  very  atmosphere,  of  "  Wuthering 
Heights,"  how  obviously  it  is  written  by  one  who 
has  seen  at  close  quarters  events  similar  to  those  of 
which  he  writes,  by  one  who  knew  the  old  farm 
manor-house  he  describes  so  accurately  in  Thrush- 

182  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

cross  Grange,  who  had  at  some  time  or  other  visited 
their  inmates,  and  knew  every  corner  of  both. 
I  have  tried  to  show  that  the  book  was  written  by 
one  closely  acquainted  with  the  classics,  which 
Emily  Bronte  was  not,  by  one  also  who  possessed 
the  fine,  clear-cut  style  of  which  we  have  proof 
that  Branwell  was  capable.  I  have  pointed  out 
that  the  date  of  the  composition  of  the  book 
coincides  with  the  date  of  Branwell's  novel,  that 
its  character  coincides  with  the  general  outhne 
given  to  Leyland  of  what  he  was  attempting. 
I  have  shown  that  it  was  written  at  the  very  time 
when,  like  the  hero,  Heathcliff,  he  was  going 
through  the  torments  of  hell,  burnt  up  by  an 
insensate  passion  for  another  man's  wife  ;  and  I 
have  quoted  the  evidence  of  his  friends,  all  men  of 
repute,  who  aver  that  the  story  Branwell  read  to 
them  agreed  in  every  particular,  as  far  as  they 
heard  it,  with  the  tale  afterwards  published  as 
"  Wuthering  Heights."  Last  of  all,  there  is  the 
direct  evidence  of  Mr.  Grundy.  With  all  these 
points  in  his  favour,  and  nothing  except  Charlotte's 
word  in  favour  of  Emily,  it  is  surely  difficult  not 

Patrick  Branwell  Bronte  183 

to  claim,  as  I  most  emphatically  do,  the  authorship 
for  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte. 

If  Charlotte's  affirmation  is  still  a  stumbling- 
block  to  some,  I  would  venture  to  point  out  that 
none  of  the  evidence  I  have  tried  to  bring  together 
was  available  to  Charlotte,  who,  with  her  limited 
knowledge,  had  no  alternative  but  to  attribute 
it  to  Emily,  and  did  so  in  good  faith.  But,  with 
our  fuller  information,  a  reconsideration  of  the 
authorship  is  imperative,  nor  is  there  anything 
outrageous  in  claiming  it  for  Branwell :  on  the 
contrary,  it  is  the  simplest  common  sense.  On 
the  other  hand,  it  would  require  the  greatest 
stretch  of  probability  to  ascribe  it  to  anyone  who 
had  not  closely  experienced  the  anguish  it  de- 
scribes :  it  is  written  as  if  in  blood. 

And,  if  Emily  Bronte  did  not  write  "  Wuthering 
Heights,"  in  helping  her  brother  to  finish  and 
publish  it  she  did  a  far  greater  thing,  and  in  so 
doing  surely  she  has  won,  beneath  the  eyes  of  the 
Eternal  Witness  of  whom  Milton  writes,  a  fame 
more  imperishable  than  any  of  those  earthly 
plaudits  which  she  so  despised. 

184  Patrick  Branwell  Bronte 

In  ascribing  "  Wuthering  Heights  "  to  its  true 
author,  it  may  be  asked,  who  would  have  rejoiced 
more  than  this  devoted  sister  that  her  secret 
toil  and  long  burden  of  anxiety  was  not  undertaken 
in  vain  ?  Who  would  have  been  more  over- 
joyed than  Emily  Bronte  that  this  much  loved 
and  deeply  lamented  brother  should,  even  at  long 
last,  have  come  into  the  fame  which  is  his  own  ? 




Far  off,  and  half  revealed,  'mid  shade  and  light, 

Black  Comb  half  smiles,  half  frowns  ;    his  mighty  form 

Scarce  bending  into  peace,  more  formed  to  fight 

A  thousand  years  of  struggles  with  a  storm 

Than  bask  one  hour  subdued  by  sunshine  warm 

To  bright  and  breezeless  rest ;  yet  even  his  height 

Towers   not  o'er   this  world's  sympathies  ;     he  smiles — 

While  many  a  human  heart  to  pleasure's  wiles 

Can  bear  to  bend,  and  still  forget  to  rise — 

As  though  he,  huge  and  heath-clad  on  our  sight. 

Again  rejoices  in  his  stormy  skies. 

Man  loses  vigour  in  unstable  joys. 

Thus  tempests  find  Black  Comb  invincible. 

While  we  are  lost,  who  should  know  life  so  well  ! 

— {circa    1840). 


186  Appendix 



The     Shepherd's     Chief     Mourner." — A     dog     keeping 
watch    at    twihght    over    its    master's    grave. 

The  beams  of  Fame  dry  up  afifection's  tears  ; 

And  those  who  rise  forget  from  whom  they  spring  ; 

Wealth's     golden     glories — pleasure's     glittering     wing — 

All  that  we  follow  through  our  chase  of  years — 

All  that  our  hope  seeks — all  our  caution  fears. 

Dim  or  destroy  those  holy  thoughts  which  chng 

Round  where  the  forms  we  loved  lie  slumbering  ; 

But,  not  with  thee — our  slave — whose  joys  or  cares 

We  deem  so  grovelling — power  nor  pride  are  thine. 

Nor  our  pursuits,  nor  ties  ;    yet,  o'er  this  grave. 

Where  lately  crowds  the  form  of  mourning  gave, 

I  only  hear  thy  low  heart-broken  whine — 

I  only  see  thee  left  long  hours  to  pine 

For  him  whom  thou — if  love  had  power — would'st  save 



Why  hold  young  eyes  the  fullest  fount  of  tears  ? 

And  why  do  youthful  hearts  the  oftenest  sigh. 

When  fancied  friends  forsake,  or  lovers  fly. 

Or  fancied  woes  and  dangers  wake  their  fears  ? 

Ah  !     he  who  asks  has  known  but  springtide  years, 

Or  Time's  rough  voice  and  long  since  told  him  why  I 

Increase  of  days  increases  misery  ; 

And  misery  brings  selfishness,  which  sears 

The  heart's  first  feelings  :    'mid  the  battle's  roar. 

In  Death's  dread  grasp,  the  soldier's  eyes  are  blind 

To  comrades  dying,  and  he  whose  hopes  are  o'er 

Turns  coldest  from  the  sufferings  of  mankind  ; 

A  bleeding  spirit  oft  delights  in  gore  : 

A  tortured  heart  oft  makes  a  tyrant  mind. 

Appendix  187 



Why  dost  thou  sorrow  for  the  happy  dead  ? 
For,  if  their  Ufe  be  lost,  their  toils  are  o'er. 
And  woe  and  want  can  trouble  them  no  more  ; 
Nor  ever  slept  they  in  an  earthly  bed 
So  sound  as  now  they  sleep,  while  dreamless  laid 
In   the  dark  chambers  of  the  unknown   shore. 
Where  Night  and  Silence  guard  each  sealed  door. 
So,  turn  from  such  as  these  thy  drooping  head. 
And  mourn  the  dead  alive,  whose  spirit  flies, 
WTiose  life  departs,  before  his  death  has  come  ; 
Who  knows  no  heaven  beneath  Life's  gloomy  skies. 
Who  sees  no  Hope  to  brighten  up  that  gloom — 
'Tis  He  who  feels  the  worm  that  never  dies — 
The  real  death  and  darkness  of  the  tomb. 

Note. — These  three  Sonnets  were,  according  to  Mr. 
Leyland,  written  in  the  year  1842.  It  will  be  remembered 
that  in  the  autumn  of  this  year  Branwell  attended  the 
deathbed  not  only  of  his  aunt.  Miss  Branwell,  but  of 
his  friend,  the  Rev.  W.  Weightman. 

188  Appendix 



The  visits  of  Sorrow 

Say,  why  should  we  mourn  ? 

Since  the  sun  of  to-morrow 

May  shine  on  its  urn  ; 

And  all  that  we  think  such  pain 

Will  have  departed — then 

Bear   for    a    moment    what    cannot    return. 

For  past  time  has  taken 

Each  hour  that  it  gave, 

And  they  never  awaken 

From  yesterday's  grave  ; 

So  surely  we  may  defy 

Shadows,  like  memory, 

Feeble   and   fleeting   as    midsummer  wave. 

From   the   depths   where    they're   falling 

Nor  pleasure,  nor  pain, 

Despite  our  recalling, 

Can  reach  us  again  ; 

Though  we  brood  over  them. 

Naught  can  recover  them. 

Where  they  are  laid  they  must  ever  remain. 

Appendix  189 

So  seize  we  the  present, 

And  gather  its  flowers, 

For — mournful    or    pleasant — 

'Tis  all  that  is  ours  ; 

WTiile  daylight  we're  wzisting. 

The  evening  is  hasting, 

And  night  follows  fast  on  vanishing  hours. 

Yes — and    we,    when    night    comes. 

Whatever  betide. 

Must  die  as  our  fate  dooms, 

And  sleep  by  their  side  ; 

For  change  is  the  only  thing 

Always  continuing  ; 

And  it  sweeps  creation  away  with  its  tide. 

190  Appendix 



I  SEE  a  corpse  upon  the  waters  lie, 

With  eyes  turned,  swelled  and  sightless,  to  the  sky. 

And  arms  outstretched  to  move,  as  wave  on  wave 

Upbears  it  in  its  boundless  billowy  grave. 

Not  time,  but  ocean,  thins  its  flowing  hair  ; 

Decay,  not  sorrow,  lays  its  forehead  bare  ; 

Its  members  move,  but  not  in  thankless  toil. 

For   seas   are   milder   than   this   world's   turmoil ; 

Corruption  robs  its  lips  and  cheeks  of  red, 

But  wounded  vanity  grieves  not  the  dead  ; 

And,  though  these  members  hasten  to  decay. 

No  pang  of  suffering  takes  their  strength  away. 

With  untormented  eye,  and  heart  and  brain, 

Through  calm  and  storm  it  floats  across  the  main ; 

Though  love  and  joy  have  perished  long  ago, 

Its  bosom  suffers  not  one  pang  of  woe  ; 

Though  weeds  and  worms  its  cherished  beauty  hide. 

It    feels    not   wounded    vanity    nor   pride  ; 

Though  journeying  towards  some  far-off  shore. 

It  needs  no  care  nor  gold  to  float  it  o'er  ; 

Though   launched    in    voyage    for   eternity, 

It  need  not  think  upon  what  is  to  be  ; 

Though   naked,   helpless,   and   companionless 

It  feels  not  poverty,  nor  knows  distress. 

Appendix  191 

Ah,  corpse  !     if  thou  could'st  tell  my  aching  mind 

What  scenes  of  sorrow  thou  hast  left  behind, 

How  sad  the  life  which,  breathing,  thou  hast  led, 

How  free  from  strife  thy  sojourn  with  the  dead  ; 

I  would  assume  thy  place — would  long  to  be 

A  world-wide  wanderer  o'er  the  waves  with  thee  ! 

I  have  a  misery,  where  thou  hast  none  ; 

My  heart  beats,   bursting,   whilst  thine  lies    Uke   stone  ; 

My  veins  throb  wild,  whilst  thine  are  dead  and  dry  ; 

And  woes,  not  waters,  dim  my  restless  eye  ; 

Thou  longest  not  with  one  well  loved  to  be, 

And  absence  does  not  break  a  chain  with  thee  ; 

No  sudden  agonies  dart  through  thy  breast ; 

Thou  hast  what  all  men  covet — real  rest. 

I  have  an  outward  frame,  unlike  to  thine. 

Warm    with    young    hfe — not    cold    in    death's    decline 

An  eye  that  sees  the  sunny  light  of  Heaven — 

A  heart  by  pleasure  thrilled,  by  anguish  riven — 

But,  in  exchange  for  thy  untroubled  calm. 

Thy  gift  of  cold  oblivion's  healing  balm, 

I'd  give  my  youth,  my  health,  my  life  to  come. 

And  share  thy  slumbers  in  thy  ocean  tomb. 

192  Appendix 

SONNET  (April,   1S46). 

When  all  our  cheerful  hours  seem  gone  for  ever, 

All  lost  that  caused  the  body  or  the  mind 

To  nourish  love  or  friendship  for  our  kind. 

And  Charon's  boat,  prepared,  o'er  Lethe's  river 

Our  souls  to  waft,  and  all  our  thoughts  to  sever 

From  what  was  once  life's  Light  ;    still  there  may  be 

Some  well-loved  bosom  to  whose  pillow  we 

Could  heartily  our  utter  self  deliver  ; 

And  if,  toward  her  grave — Death's  dreary  road — 

Our  Darling's  feet  should  tread,  each  step  by  her 

Would  draw  our  own  steps  to  the  same  abode, 

And  make  a  festival  of  sepulture  ; 

For  what  gave  joy,  and  joy  to  us  had  owed, 

Should  Death  affright  us  from,  when  he  would  her  restore  ? 

Note. — ^The  sentiment  expressed  in  the  last  four  lines 
of  this  poem  are  markedly  and  strangely  suggestive  of 
the  feelings  of  Heathcliff  in  connection  with  the  entomb- 
ment of  Catherine  Linton. 



Law,  Alice 


Patrick  Branwell 



A.  M.  Philpot